WASHINGTON ― The major climate and energy proposal known as the Green New Deal failed to advance in the Senate on Tuesday as Democrats slammed Republicans for orchestrating a bad-faith exercise designed to expose divisions in their ranks.
Most Democrats, most of whom view the resolution as an ambitious road map to address the threat of climate change, declined to engage by voting “present.” Republicans, meanwhile, all voted not to advance the resolution after spending weeks ridiculing it as “loony,” unnecessary and wildly unrealistic.
The measure, which was nonbinding, fell short of the necessary 60-vote threshold needed to advance to a final vote. No senators voted in support of it. Four members of the Democratic caucus voted against it: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Doug Jones of Alabama, and independent Angus King of Maine.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) jointly issued the resolution, which staked out the basic tenets of what future legislation on a Green New Deal should strive for, including guaranteeing clean-energy jobs to millions of Americans, bolstering electric vehicle manufacturing and generating as much of the nation’s electricity from renewables as possible over the next decade.
Sixty-four Democrats signed on as co-sponsors from the start, a number that ballooned to 100 in just a few weeks, with 89 co-sponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate. But the resolution proved divisive as Republicans lampooned it with unfounded claims that the proposal called for banning hamburgers and risked triggering a “genocide.”
Unions that rely on the fossil fuel industry for high-wage jobs came out against the resolution. In response, some moderate Democrats dismissed the resolution’s goals of aiding Americans suffering the health effects of pollution and issued their own weaker, less specific climate proposals instead.
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced he would be bringing the resolution to the floor to give senators an “opportunity to go on record and see how they feel,” betting it would prove too radical for a good number of Democrats.
But Democratic leadership urged members to unite against the gambit by voting “present,” a strategy they view as their best option to contain divisions within their ranks regarding the resolution. The party executed a similar move in 2017 when Republicans teed up a vote on a “Medicare for All” plan authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.t.).
In just six short weeks, everyone is debating a Green New Deal. There’s been more debate about climate change in the last six weeks than in the last six years.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
In a lengthy statement issued after the vote, King said he supported taking climate action but he expressed concern about Green New Deal resolution’s “overly aggressive goals,” calling them “unrealistic and far too broad.”
Jones, meanwhile, said the Green New Deal is “not a good policy for my state and I’m sure it’s not a good policy for America.” The Alabama Democrat is up for re-election in 2020 in a red state.
Supporters of the resolution maintained they had achieved what they had set out to do by igniting a national conversation about climate change, an issue that scientists have grown increasingly alarmed about. Indeed, coverage of climate change increased greatly on cable news shows, especially on Fox News.
“This resolution has struck a powerful chord with the American people,” Markey said at a Monday press conference. “The Green New Deal was always designed to be an opening of a national discussion. And it has worked. In just six short weeks, everyone is debating a Green New Deal. There’s been more debate about climate change in the last six weeks than in the last six years.”
While many GOP senators relished mocking Democrats over the Green New Deal and its botched rollout, few have offered serious proposals of their own to address the threat of climate change.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Monday called the Green New Deal a “silly proposal,” but credited it for bringing the issue of climate change “to the top” and “forcing Republicans to say what we’re for.” To that end, he said he supported a “Manhattan Project for clean energy that focuses on advanced computing, solar, green buildings, cars — those are all items Republicans should be able to support.” But Alexander said the matter ought to be handled by boosting funding to existing programs rather than through a new, transformative proposal like the Green New Deal.
At a Sunrise Movement press conference on Tuesday morning, Senate Democrats pounded Republicans for broadly thwarting climate efforts and rejecting the scientific realities of human-caused global warming.
“The Republican Party is out of the mainstream,” Markey said. “Republicans continue to ignore climate change at their political peril ― they will pay a price at the ballot box in 2020.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the first 2020 contender to speak, recounted the destruction she witnessed in Iowa last week, where the Midwest’s historic floods wreaked havoc. She cited the mounting death toll from climate catastrophes in wildfire-charred California and storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, and criticized Republicans for zealously reversing Obama-era greenhouse gas regulations.
“Now suddenly they want a vote on the Green New Deal?” she said. “We will not fall for this stunt.”
The New York Democrat joined every other 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful who serves in the Senate in voting “present” on the resolution.