The Senate failed to pass a procedural vote on the "Green New Deal," a sweeping proposal to combat climate change. The non-binding joint resolution did to get the 60 votes necessary to advance in the Senate, as most Democrats voted "present." Four Democrats voted against advancing the resolution.
Democrats did not vote for the measure in an attempt to thwart Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to use the vote against them in the upcoming 2020 elections. McConnell has referred to the Green New Deal as a "huge, self-inflicted, national wound the Democrats are agitating for" and is using the issue to portray Democrats as socialists.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell's "stunt" bringing forward the vote on the Green New Deal had backfired.
"All he's accomplished is that it's becoming clearer and clearer to the American people that the Republican Party is way behind the times on clean energy and that Democrats are the party willing to take action," Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. He called on McConnell to allow a vote on the creation of a Senate Select Committee on Climate Change.
"Climate Change is serious and it's worthy of bipartisan investigation and action. Why not create this committee? Why not do something real?" Schumer said.
The, which was introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, includes plans to drastically reduce greenhouse gases and move the nation to 100 percent renewable energy. In addition to other dramatic environmental features, the resolution also calls for universal health care and infrastructure investment.
In a press conference on Capitol Hill, Markey said Tuesday's vote was on a "life or death" issue.
"We cannot deny the devastating consequences of climate change, it is the national security, economic, health care and moral issue of our time. We must act now," Markey urged. "The Green New Deal is not just a resolution, it is a revolution," he added.
What the resolution includes
- Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.
- Creation of millions of "good, high-wage jobs."
- Investment in infrastructure and industry.
- Prevention and repair of "historic oppression to frontline and vulnerable communities."
- A goal for 100 percent renewable energy in the U.S.
- Clean air and water, climate resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and "a sustainable environment for all for generations to come."
- Investments in buildings to make them more energy efficient.
- "Eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible."
- "Universal access" to clean water.
Criticism of the plan
On the Senate floor Monday, McConnell slammed the legislation as "socialist fantasy."
"I could not be more glad that the American people can learn where their senators stand on this radical idea. Hard-working Americans will see if their senators want to suffocate their livelihoods. Families who have to budget will see which senators vote to increase their electricity bills by $300 a month," said McConnell. He added that the American public deserved to know "which Senators can stand up and which refuse."
Critics point to estimates of the cost of converting to 100 percent renewable energy reaching into the trillions. So far, Ocasio-Cortez has floated some ideas to pay for it -- including a fee or tax on carbon emissions and her idea for a marginal tax rate of 70 percent on earnings of more than $10 million for wealthy Americans, a proposal she outlined on "60 Minutes" last month.
Schumer said that it was "long past time" for his Republican colleagues to take the issue of climate change "seriously."
"Let's not do a sham vote. This is too serious. Republicans owe the American people some real answers," Schumer added.
Just hours before the vote, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said the resolution as proposed would "absolutely be devastating and disastrous" for the agriculture economy in his state and across the country. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, echoed his colleague, calling the resolution a "big green bomb" that would "blow a hole in our economy" suggesting the costly measure would "bankrupt America."
Democrats blast Republican efforts
Markey slammed McConnell and Senate Republicans before Tuesday's vote, saying the leader wanted to "sabotage" Democrats' call for climate action by holding a vote without hearings or expert testimony.
"He and his colleagues want to make a mockery of the national debate we have started with the Green New Deal because they have no plan to fight climate change and no intention of passing legislation to combat change," said Markey. He added that Tuesday's vote is just the beginning of the debate on the resolution, saying all Democrats are united in support of climate action.
Meanwhile, 2020 Democratic contender Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said Republicans were treating climate change like a "political stunt," slamming her colleagues in the senate for "refusing to put forward any real legislation" to tackle climate issues.
"We will not fall for this stunt," Gillibrand said of the vote. "Climate change shouldn't be treated like a game." Gillibrand later tweeted she would be joining fellow Democrats in voting "present" at Tuesday's vote.
"Today's #GreenNewDeal vote is a partisan stunt to side-step needed debate on climate action, and give Republicans cover to put oil lobby checks over our kids. I've come to expect nothing less from @senatemajldr."
"I don't play ball with bad-faith farces," she added.
Sen. Kamala Harris, also a presidential candidate, accused Republicans of "playing political games" with the vote on the Green New Deal.
"We should not be wasting our time with fake votes & cynical stunts. The Republican majority must stop denying science and finally admit that climate change is real," she said.
Hickenlooper parts with 2020 Dems on Green New Deal
Before Tuesday's vote, Hickenlooper came down against the largely progressive measure, releasing a campaign statement in opposition of the resolution. He's the first candidate in the packed 2020 field to do so. Hickenlooper argued "we must act urgently on climate change, but that any Green New Deal must treat the private sector as a partner."
"Significant technological innovations still have to occur to reach the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions in ten years. Those new energy sources must also be affordable to the overwhelming number of Americans already struggling to balance their budgets at the end of the month. As currently structured, the Ocasio-Cortez-Markey resolution does not create the private-public partnership that has allowed the United States to tackle its other great technological challenges," the statement added.