Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to force Democrats to weigh in on a sweeping climate change and economic overhaul proposal jointly introduced last week by high-profile freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.
McConnell announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he would send the so-called Green New Deal measure to the Senate floor for a vote “to see how they feel about the Green New Deal” – a tactic he’s used in recent years to put vulnerable opponents on the record supporting or opposing controversial policies.
Republicans are gearing up to make the Green New Deal a key campaign issue heading into the 2020 race. President Donald Trump took aim at the resolution at a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, decrying it as “socialism” and painting elements of the proposal as pie-in-the-sky dreaming.
“I really don’t like their policies of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ or ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!’” he told the crowd.
Among the array of progressive policy aims called for under the Green New Deal are a complete shift to renewable and zero-emissions energy sources, a massive effort to revamp American infrastructure, a federal jobs guarantee and a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.
The idea of a Green New Deal has become a key policy initiative for Ocasio-Cortez, who shortly after being elected in November joined the Sunrise Movement to protest climate change in the office of now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez subsequently paired up with Markey to begin working on the resolution.
“Republicans don’t want to debate climate change, they only want to deny it,” Markey said in a statement. “They have offered no plan to address this economic and national security threat and want to sabotage any effort that makes Big Oil and corporate polluters pay.”
The measure has attracted support from potential and declared presidential candidates in the Senate, including Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, another cosponsor of the Green New Deal who has said he has no plans to run, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday he thinks some version of the plan is “absolutely realistic.”
But others aren’t as ready to make a decision one way or the other. Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is mulling a 2020 run, tiptoed around questions on the topic during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Tuesday morning, declining to take a firm position on the proposal.
“I support a Green New Deal and aggressively addressing climate change and what it means with infrastructure and other ways,” Brown initially told reporters. “I’m not going to take position on every bill that’s coming out,” he said of Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s resolution.
When asked how he would vote if it were to come to the Senate floor, Brown said, “I don’t know… I’m going to do my job and take positions on issues that are imminently coming to the floor soon and on the ones I choose to. I’m not going to analyze every bill that some people with a lot of big ideas are proposing.”
In July of 2017, Republicans brought forward a single-payer health care amendment for a vote, which failed 0-57, all Democrats voting against it. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the maneuver as “pure cynicism, pure politics” at the time. And in earlier votes on former President Barack Obama’s budget proposals, Democrats refused to play ball and voted no, protesting what they saw as a political ploy by McConnell.