U.S. Republicans set Green New Deal vote in bid to divide Democrats

by Reuters
Tuesday, 26 March 2019 16:14 GMT

(Adds senators comments, background on Republican plan on climate change)

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, March 26 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a move aimed at dividing Democrats, set a vote for Tuesday on their "Green New Deal" resolution that seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by moving the United States off fossil fuels.

The Green New Deal, introduced last month by Democrats, marked the first formal attempt by lawmakers to define legislation to create big government-led investments in clean energy like wind and solar power, infrastructure and social programs.

The goal of the non-binding resolution is to speed a transition of the U.S. economy away from burning oil, gas, and coal and emitting greenhouse gases from cars and industry blamed for climate change, linked to more intense storms, floods and droughts.

But the vote, slated for 4 p.m. (2000 GMT), is occurring before the plan has had the chance for a national debate or hearings in Congress.

Republicans have used the plan to try to sow discord within the Democratic Party, painting their rivals as shifting far to the left and embracing extreme policies.

McConnell wrote on Twitter that Americans will see today which senators are against the deal and which "are so fully committed to radical left-wing ideology that they can't even vote 'no' on self-inflicted economic ruin that would take a sledgehammer to America's middle class."

Democratic Senator Edward Markey, who unveiled the plan with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that McConnell and other Republicans "fail to understand ... that the Green New Deal is not just a resolution, it is a revolution."

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was criticized by Green New Deal supporters after she was filmed last month telling children she opposed the resolution because it was too expensive.

Still, many Democrats plan to vote "present" at the procedural vote on the resolution, instead of up or down, to show unity in the party.

The Green New Deal references Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-era New Deal program, which lifted the economy through massive government-led infrastructure investments. It was meant by backers to spur debate during the 2020 presidential election campaign on the intricate problem of how to tackle climate change while boosting the economy, not to force the party to take sides in a quick vote.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat running for president in a crowded field, told reporters at the news conference led by Markey that a lot of Republicans were treating climate change like a "political stunt."

Gillibrand said most Republican lawmakers were lock step in support of President Donald Trump's policies of rolling back environmental regulations, withdrawing from the 2015 Paris international climate agreement and "have refused to put forward any real plan to address climate change in any meaningful way."

The Green New Deal has the backing of almost all the Democrats declared as candidates seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, has offered a response to climate change that proposes to engage innovation by doubling research funding in ten technologies including advanced nuclear, batteries, and capturing carbon for burial underground, a plan that critics say does not act fast enough. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney and Susan Thomas)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.