By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that the U.S. Senate will vote on a "Green New Deal" introduced by Democrats that aims to slash U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to negligible levels in a decade.
"I've noted with great interest the Green New Deal, and we're going to be voting on that in the Senate, give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal," McConnell said.
The document introduced last week marked the first formal attempt by lawmakers to define legislation to create big government-led investments in clean energy, infrastructure and social programs. The goal is to transition the U.S. economy away from burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gasses blamed for climate change, rising sea levels and severe storms.
The initiative was unveiled by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising political star, and Senator Edward Markey. The initiative has the backing of almost all the Democrats declared as candidates seeking for the party's nomination in the 2020 presidential election.
Co-sponsor Markey said McConnell's call for a vote before hearings and a national debate on the Green New Deal was an attempt to sabotage the plan.
“They [Republicans] 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," he said in a statement.
Republicans have used the Green New Deal to try to sow discord within the Democratic party, painting their political rivals as shifting to the left and embracing extreme policies.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had called the Green New Deal a "green dream" and some Democrats in fossil fuel-dependent or rural districts have stayed quiet on their position.
Republican Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Senate environment committee, said Democrats were proposing a plan that "raises taxes, that overthrows really a productive energy market that we have right now in this country, raises energy costs, forces people out of work who are working in the energy field." Barrasso represents the coal-producing state of Wyoming .
The plan outlines some of the most aggressive climate goals ever put forward by Democratic lawmakers and clashes dramatically with the Trump administration's efforts to advance domestic oil, gas and coal production by rolling back environmental protections.
Some Democrats hit back at the Republican attempt to call for a vote on the resolution before hearings and debates take place, calling it a "cynical" move.
"Instead of trying to cause mischief, the #Republican Party should put forward its own serious proposal to address #climatechange," Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump's administration opposes action on climate change and favors boosting U.S. production of oil, gas and coal.
On Monday, Trump poked fun at the Green New Deal at his campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, making exaggerated claims that the policy would force people to give up air travel and owning cows, a source of methane emissions.
"I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of 'let's hop a train to California,' of you're not allowed to own cows anymore!" Trump said at the rally.
The name, Green New Deal, references the New Deal of the 1930s that President Franklin Roosevelt implemented to aid Americans suffering in the Great Depression by embarking on huge government-led infrastructure projects.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker, Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by David Alexander; writing by Doina Chiacu; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)