WASHINGTON – It's never a dull day on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Mike Lee took an unconventional route in blasting the Green New Deal, a sweeping progressive proposal to address climate change, on the Senate floor. The Utah Republican honed his inner troll while using everything from posters showing Aquaman and Star Wars characters to quotes from Austin Powers to paint the bill as "ridiculous" and something that would never pass in Congress and never work.
"After reading the Green New Deal, I'm mostly afraid of not being able to get through this speech with a straight face," he said starting his remarks. "I rise today to consider the Green New Deal with the seriousness it deserves."
GOP senators have ridiculed the plan, unveiled by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. in February, because The Green New Deal's original talking points called for even more drastic goals: a build-out of high-speed rail that would make carbon-emitting airplane travel obsolete; an end to dependence of nuclear power as well as fossil fuels; and the creation of "a sustainable, pollution and greenhouse gas free, food system" that would no longer rely on "farting cows."
The Senate shot down the measure, which also calls for a broad social remake of the American economy, on Tuesday, with Democrats helping to kill it. No senator voted for it; 57 (including all Republicans and a handful of Democrats) voted against it; and the remaining 43 (all Democrats) voted "present" as a protest.
Republican opponents, led by GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were eager to bring it to a vote because they believe the plan they continually lambaste will turn off voters heading to the polls next year. The bill called not only for combating climate change by eliminating carbon emissions caused by fossil fuels and shifting the economy to one powered by renewable fuels, but also prescribed a broad social justice platform advocating for free housing, medical coverage and higher education for all Americans.
Before the vote, Lee used his speech to tear apart the proposal with sarcastic humor. He went on to display a variety of posters, starting with a depiction of former president Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor. In the poster, Reagan is firing a machine gun and has a rocket launcher strapped to his back. The velociraptor is holding a tattered American flag.
"This image has as much to do with overcoming communism in the 20th Century as the Green New Deal has to do with overcoming climate change in the 21st," he said. "The aspirations of the proposal have been called radical, they've been called extreme—but mostly —they're ridiculous. There isn't a single serious idea here. Not one."
He ridiculed the bill's original talking points, which called for eliminating air travel, by citing fictional solutions from movies and comic books.
Lee offered a solution to air travel in winter when trains aren't as dependable. "Tauntauns!" Lee exclaimed as he pointed to a poster from Star Wars. The photo showed Luke Skywalker riding the animal in the 1980 film "The Empire Strikes Back."
He explained the species was a native to the "ice planet of Hoth" and could help people get around in the snow. He admitted that using the "species of space lizards" to get around might not be as convenient, but said they "offer their own unique benefitsts," including being carbon neutral.
Lee continued mocking the bill and said he found a solution for those who seek to travel to Hawaii, across thousands of miles of ocean, if they could not use planes or boats. He displayed a third poster, this one of the comic book character Aquaman riding a 20-foot seahorse.
"Under the Green New Deal, this is probably Hawaii's best bet," he said of the seahorse. "Now, I'm the first to admit that a massive fleet of giant, highly trained seahorses would be cool. It would be really, really awesome."
He continued, pulling out a poster showing a scene from the movie Sharknado to show he understood the effects of climate change. He said he knew that "critics will no doubt chastise us for not taking climate change seriously."
"Climate change is no joke but the Green New Deal is a joke. It is the legislative equivalent of Austin Powers' Dr. Evil, demanding sharks with freaking lasers on their heads," he said quoting from the 1997 film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
"The green new deal is not a serious policy document because it's not a policy document at all," Lee said. "It is, in fact, an aesthetic one."
Lee had his own solution to solving climate change: Having more kids.
"The solution to climate change is not this unserious resolution," he said. "The solution to so many of our problems, at all times and in all places: fall in love, get married and have some kids."
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, one of the founders of the proposal responded in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
Like many other women + working people, I occasionally suffer from impostor syndrome: those small moments, especially on hard days, where you wonder if the haters are right.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 26, 2019
But then they do things like this to clear it right up.
If this guy can be Senator, you can do anything. https://t.co/vU4ChbTnnr
She posted a photo of Lee's posters then lamented, "GOP Senators are using their Congressional allowances to print Aquaman posters for themselves to argue that a #GreenNewDeal saving our nation from climate change is a ‘waste of money,'" she wrote.
In another tweet, she said that occasionally she has moments when she wonders "if the haters are right.
"But then they do things like this to clear it right up," she wrote. "If this guy can be Senator, you can do anything."
Contributing: Ledyard King
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senator uses Star Wars posters, image of Reagan riding a dinosaur to blast Green New Deal