The US Senate defeated a motion to take up the Green New Deal, the non-binding proposal spearheaded by progressive Democratic lawmakers to radically reduce greenhouse gases and try to lessen social inequity.
Republican leaders in the Senate had scheduled Tuesday’s vote in an effort to turn the proposal into a wedge issue in the 2020 elections, hoping to force Democrats on the record about their support – or opposition – for a proposal that is popular among the Democratic base but has been criticized by many conservatives.
Democrats called the efforts by the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell a “sham”, and 43 of them voted “present” rather than casting an up-or-down vote.
Lawmakers ultimately voted 57-0 against the proposal. Three Democrats and independent senator Angus King of Maine ultimately joined all 53 Republicans in opposing the plan.
The Green New Deal aims to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and calls for the US to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal. It also urges national healthcare coverage and job guarantees, high-quality education and affordable housing, as well as “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States” to be energy-efficient.
The proposal has broad support among Democratic activists, and all six of the 2020 presidential contenders serving in the Senate have signed on as cosponsors, putting it at the forefront of the party’s sprawling primary race.
Republicans say the plan would devastate the economy and lead to a huge tax increase. They call it more evidence of the creep of “socialism” in the Democratic party, along with “Medicare for All” and a sweeping elections reform package that would allow public financing of congressional campaigns.
McConnell said the proposal “might sound like a neat idea in places like San Francisco or New York” but would result in communities across the country being “absolutely crushed”. He argued the deal would “kill off entire domestic industries” and eliminate millions of jobs.
Donald Trump also weighed in against the plan, which the White House called “job crushing”. At a luncheon with Senate Republicans, Trump urged lawmakers to keep the Green New Deal alive as an issue to use against Democrats.
Mike Lee, a Republican senator from Utah, called the Green New Deal “ridiculous” and displayed pictures of dinosaurs, cartoon characters and babies as he derided the plan. He said he was treating it “with the seriousness it deserves”.
Democrats derided the GOP moves and said they carried their own political risk by mocking an issue – climate change – that a growing number of Americans care deeply about.
Climate change, they said, is deadly serious, citing floods in the midwest, wildfires in the west and hurricanes in the south.
“Climate change is not a joke,” said Ed Markey, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and the resolution’s lead Senate author. “Mocking it is shameful.”
“The GOP’s climate delaying is costing us lives [and is] destroying communities,” congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the plan’s sponsor in the House, tweeted.
The GOP’s climate delaying is costing us lives + destroying communities.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 26, 2019
Iowa, Nebraska & many in the Midwest are catastrophically flooded right now, in one of the 1st major climate change disasters of 2019.
A #GreenNewDeal urges us to pursue a plan on the scale of the problem. https://t.co/dWXe44hxWX
Ocasio-Cortez also said she had encouraged fellow Democrats to vote present, and questioned Republicans’ reluctance to schedule major hearings on the effects of climate change.
Separately, speaking at a hearing of the House financial services committee on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez sharply criticized the suggestion that concerns about the environment were “elitist” and condemned past inaction.
“You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids of the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of child asthma in the country,” she said.
“This is about our lives, and this should not be partisan,” she added. “Science should not be partisan.”
By Tuesday evening, the clip of her comments had been shared thousands of times.
The New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of a half-dozen senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president, said Republicans treat climate change “as a game” and said Democrats “will not fall for this stunt”.
Slowing climate change “should be our nation’s moonshot” in the 21st century, Gillibrand argued. “We don’t know if we can get to net-zero carbon emissions in 10 years, but why not try?” she said at a rally before the Senate vote.