From The Hill

Durbin after reading Green New Deal: ‘What in the heck is this?’

Democrats are facing a defining Senate vote as early as next week on the “Green New Deal” climate change plan — which Republicans hope will bolster their argument that the party is too far left for the country.

It’s unclear how many Democrats will ultimately back the progressive-pushed resolution, which aims to get the U.S. running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, but it’s certain to divide the party.

Asked if he’d vote for the resolution, a chuckling Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Hill before the Presidents Day recess: “Probably not.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another centrist in the Democratic caucus, characterized the plan in an interview with CNN last week as a “dream,” suggesting he’d vote against it.

“I’ll vote on the motion to proceed and then we’ll see after that,” Manchin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, told The Hill.

While Manchin and Tester are both centrists from states President Trumpwon in 2016, even some liberal Democrats are admitting they’re having a hard time getting behind the Green New Deal.

Senate Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, called the plan a “resolution aspiration,” during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday.

“He said he wasn’t sure how he’d vote, adding that he had asked Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the resolution in the Senate, “What in the heck is this?”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told the Hill last week that he was prepared to vote “yes” on the bill himself. But when asked about whether it will be hard for others in his party to get on board, he responded, “Every senator can speak for themselves on that.”

The far-reaching climate plan was largely conceptualized by progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who introduced the resolution in the House in early February.

The plan’s main goals include a push toward renewable energy that supporters say would jump-start thousands of new jobs.

Some of its aims though, have generated criticism for being too far-reaching and not focused enough on issues directly tied to reducing carbon emissions. For example, measures in the resolution include goals to expand family farming and the availability of clean water. The resolution received the most notoriety after drafts were circulated of a Q&A for the plan, written by Ocasio-Cortez’s office, that included talking points on getting rid of “emissions from cows” and all airplane travel.

“It is difficult to support the resolution right now when one of the lead sponsors says one of the intentions is to make air travel unnecessary,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, said in a statement in early February.

Premise of Green New Deal

The premise of the Green New Deal has split Democrats from the start.

The Green New Deal last fall started as a blueprint for Ocasio-Cortez’s sought-after select committee on climate change. More than 45 lawmakers supported the creation of the committee to draft a Green New Deal plan, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) instead decided to create a different committee, the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, headed by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is now fast-tracking a vote on the resolution in hopes that it will divide Democrats and unite his own party. A vote can happen as early as next week.

“I’m looking forward to voting against the Green New Deal because it’s just so bad for the economy and we’ll have an opportunity for the Democrats to see if they want to rubber stamp this lurch to the left, this hard left turn that their party seems to be taking right now,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces a tough reelection race next year, equated the plan to socialism.

“This idea is about socialism. That’s what this is. Look at it. Read it,” Gardner said. “And it’s important that we tell the American people what it is.”

By pushing the vote through, Republicans are also aiming to lock down the positions of Democrats running for president in 2020.

“[It’s important] to get people on record as to how much they really want to take this country in a hard left direction,” Barrasso said.

While Democratic hopefuls Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand(D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have so far voiced their support for the Green New Deal, other centrist candidates have remained on the fence.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) hasn’t commented directly on her support for the resolution but in the past called the idea “an aspiration.” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who hasn’t joined the presidential race, similarly resisted calls to endorse Ocasio-Cortez’s specific plan, saying he instead supports “a green new deal.”

“There will be all kinds of bills sponsored by individual presidential candidates. … I’m not going to take position on every bill that’s coming out. I support a green new deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation]. That’s my answer,” he told reporters at a breakfast last week.

Democratic leaders however say they too are planning to gain from the vote.

Speaking on the Senate floor last week, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) derided McConnell’s decision to force a vote on the issue, saying, “Bring it on.”

“You think it might embarrass Democrats to vote on a nonbinding resolution that some of us may support but not others?” Schumer asked. “Trust me, we’ll be fine, because the American people know that our entire party believes that climate change is happening and it’s caused by humans.”

Durbin said Democrats will be looking at the vote as an opportunity to get Republicans on record about their plans to fight the looming threat of climate change.

“What we’re going to do is ask the Republican leader, ‘What’s your position on global warming, while we’re at it?’” Durbin said Wednesday. “’Shouldn’t you come out on the record and tell us whether you believe man-made activity is having an impact on our environment?’ Let’s get on the record on both sides.”


U.S. House of Representatives Green New Deal Resolution

Heartland Institute: Posting of Green New Deal Fact Sheet

Green Party Green New Deal post from pre-2016

Draft of Green New Deal Climate Emergency Resolution dated 2016 – from The Climate Mobilization

Europe’s Green New Deal dated back to 2011

Nine Key Questions About the Green New Deal

From the New York Times

If you’ve heard a lot recently about the Green New Deal but still aren’t quite sure what it is, you are not alone. After all, it has been trumpeted by its supporters as the way to avoid planetary destruction, and vilified by opponents as a socialist plot to take away your ice cream. So it’s bound to be somewhat confusing. We’re here to help.

What is the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal is a congressional resolution that lays out a grand plan for tackling climate change.

Introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, the proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries.

The resolution is nonbinding, so even if Congress approves it, nothing in the proposal would become law.

Variations of the proposal have been around for years. Think tanks, the Green Party and even The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman all have had plans for tackling climate change that they labeled a Green New Deal. But after the 2018 midterm elections, a youth activist group called the Sunrise Movement popularized the name by laying out a strategy and holding a sit-in outside the office of Nancy Pelosi, the soon-to-be-speaker of the House of Representatives, to demand action on climate change. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez joined the protesters, lending her support to their proposal and setting the groundwork for what ultimately became the joint resolution.

Will there be a vote on it?


Republicans have cast the Green New Deal as a socialist takeover and say it is evidence that Democrats are far from the mainstream on energy issues. Mitch McConnell, the senate majority leader, plans to bring the plan to the floor as early as next week. Democrats say that the vote would be a stunt because Republican Senate leaders do not want to have a sincere debate about climate change.

What problem is the Green New Deal addressing?

The goal of the Green New Deal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change while also trying to fix societal problems like economic inequality and racial injustice.

The resolution uses as its guide two major reports issued last year by the United Nations and by federal scientists who warned that if global temperatures continue to rise, the world is headed for more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts. The research shows that the United States economy could lose billions of dollars by the end of the century because of climate change. Currently, carbon emissions are rising, by 3.4 percent last year in the United States and by 2.7 percent globally, according to early estimates.

Supporters of the Green New Deal also believe that change can’t just be a technological feat, and say it must also tackle poverty, income inequality and racial discrimination.

What are its main provisions?

You can read it for yourself here, but here are the essential elements: It says the entire world needs to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 — meaning as much carbon would have to be absorbed as released into the atmosphere — and the United States must take a “leading role” in achieving that.

The Green New Deal calls on the federal government to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create high-paying jobs, ensure that clean air, clean water and healthy food are basic human rights, and end all forms of oppression.

To achieve those goals, the plan calls for the launch of a “10-year mobilization” to reduce carbon emissions in the United States. It envisions sourcing 100 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-emissions power, digitizing the nation’s power grid, upgrading every building in the country to be more energy-efficient, and overhauling the nation’s transportation system by investing in electric vehicles and high-speed rail.

To address social justice, the resolution says it is the duty of the government to provide job training and new economic development, particularly to communities that currently rely on jobs in fossil fuel industries.

What doesn’t it say? What on Earth Is Going On?

President Trump has claimed the Green New Deal will take away your “airplane rights.” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, told Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host, that the proposal will confiscate cars and require Americans to “ride around on high-speed light rail, supposedly powered by unicorn tears.” And Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, warned that ice cream, cheeseburgers and milkshakes will be a thing of the past because under the Green New Deal, “livestock will be banned.”

The resolution doesn’t do any of those things.

To be sure, there is some confusion about what the Green New Deal does and doesn’t say. That’s partially the fault of its sponsors, who botched the resolution’s initial roll out.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s office initially sent to reporters, but later disavowed, a fact sheet that included some controversial ideas, like guaranteeing economic security including to those “unwilling to work.”

The resolution does call on the federal government to make investments in policies and projects that would eventually change the way we design buildings, travel and eat. For example: cows. To reduce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that cows and other livestock emit, the resolution proposes “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

The resolution itself also steers clear of endorsing or rejecting specific technologies or sources of energy, something that Mr. Markey said was done purposefully to encourage broader support for the plan.

What’s with the name?

The Green New Deal takes its name and inspiration from the major government makeover, known as the New Deal, launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help the United States recover from the Great Depression.

That series of public-works programs and financial reforms included the Civilian Conservation Corps (which put people to work in manual labor jobs like planting trees and constructing park trails) and the creation of the Public Works Administration to work on the construction of bridges, dams, schools and more.

Like the original New Deal, the Green New Deal is not a single project or piece of legislation.

What are the costs?

That’s not clear yet.

President Trump claimed it would cost $100 trillion. Supporters of the Green New Deal say climate change could be equally costly to the American economy. For now it’s impossible to pin down dollar figures on the plan.

Some examples of why:

One conservative think tank has pegged the cost to the federal government of providing Medicare-to-all at $32 trillion over 10 years, but supporters claimed it would actually save taxpayers $2 trillion over 10 years.

Converting the country to 100 percent clean power? In Vermont alone, which has a goal of achieving 90 percent renewable energy by midcentury, the cost is estimated at $33 billion. Yet the state is seeing job growth in clean energy sectors and expects the transition will spur cost savings for consumers.

Modernizing the electrical grid across the United States could cost as much as $476 billion, yet reap $2 trillion in benefits, according to a 2011 study issued by the Electric Power Research Institute.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has acknowledged that the Green New Deal is going to be expensive, but contends the plan will pay for itself through economic growth.

Do critics offer alternative proposals?

Some Republicans have called for a technology-oriented solution to climate change but so far no critic has come out with an alternative that matches the scale or scope of the Green New Deal.

How will the Green New Deal shape the debate?

There is going to be a lot more political jockeying around the Green New Deal in coming weeks and months. Republicans have already launched video ads trying to tie Democrats to the proposal, which they have described as “radical.”

And Mr. McConnell’s vote is directly aimed at making life uncomfortable for Democratic presidential contenders like Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris. Those senators have all co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution but in some cases have avoided specifics. Ms. Klobuchar, for example, told CNN she sees the Green New Deal as an “aspiration” and “something that we need to move toward.”

At the same time, all of the attention on the Green New Deal has put new pressure on Republican critics to come up with their own plan for cutting greenhouse gases.

It is likely that the Green New Deal will remain a lightning rod throughout the 2020 presidential campaign.


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