Why is it difficult to be green?

The Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, failed to advance Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Tuesday in what Democrats are calling a “trick,” “joke” and “sham” vote. 

The progressive and ambitious resolution to fight climate change and make the U.S. carbon-neutral by 2030 was prematurely taken to a vote this week by McConnell in an attempt to get vulnerable Democrats on the record ahead of the next election cycle and to demonstrate splits between factions of the Democratic Party. There was little chance the deal would pass in a Republican-led Senate and no time was given for committee hearings, debate or markups. 

In the end, nearly every Senate Democrat, 43 in total, voted “present” instead of voting for or against the bill. Senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Doug Jones, all from conservative states, voted “no.” 

The “present” vote was an attempt to out-troll McConnell. By declining to vote “yes” or “no,” Senate Democrats denied him a 2020 talking point about the left being fractured by the proposal. 

“We’re not going to stand for sham bills that the other side is all voting no on. They know what a trick and joke and sham that is, so does all the American people,” said Chuck Schumer in a Senate floor speech before the vote. “But we are finally talking about the issue, and that is great because climate change is not a joke. It’s not a hoax, it’s a crisis and that’s why we’re doing these things.” 

Senator Lindsey Graham gave away some of the details of the politically-motivated vote during a press scrum on Tuesday. When asked if the president was aware of the situation, Graham said, “Yeah, he said, ‘Make sure you don’t kill it too much because I want to run against it.'” 

Later, in a final attempt to win in the court of public opinion, McConnell told reporters that “a vote present today is a vote in favor of the Green New Deal.” 

It’s a tactic Republicans have tried before. During the 2018 midterm elections, House Speaker Paul Ryan attempted to bring a Democratic plan to abolish ICE to a quick vote in order to highlight strain and tensions among the left. The most progressive members of the party, however, said they saw through the trick and that they would vote ‘no.’ Ryan ended up abandoning the idea and Democrats won back the House in November. 

This time around, Democrats managed a similar success. “This vote is a sham and little more than a political ploy to protect vulnerable Republicans from having to defend their climate science denial,” Senator Ed Markey, the primary sponsor of the Green New Deal, said. “I will be voting present, and I challenge Republicans to offer their own proposals on combating the threat of climate change instead of blocking all action to combat it.” Senators (and 2020 candidates) Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren have all co-sponsored the legislation but voted “present” on Tuesday. 

But it was a Republican, Senator Mike Lee, who took home most of the press from the vote on Tuesday. 

“The solution to climate change is not this unserious resolution… the solution to so many of our problems at all times and in all places is to fall in love, get married, and have some kids,” said Lee on the Senate floor while displaying a large stock photo of babies. “The courage needed to solve climate change is nothing compared with the courage needed to start a family.” 

Lee, a conservative who has spoken out against the Green New Deal also displayed posters of former President Ronald Reagan riding a dinosaur and Aquaman during his floor speech. The posters were supposed to demonstrate how silly he thought the plan was. “This isn’t going to pass—not today, not any time soon certainly. Rather, 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. “For, Mr. President, I rise today to consider the Green New Deal with the seriousness it deserves.” 

The response promoted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to quip that, “If this guy can be Senator, you can do anything.” 

Ocasio-Cortez had her own viral moment on Tuesday, while arguing against Republicans who were attempting to paint concern over a climate catastrophe as elitist. “This is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue,” she said during a committee meeting. “You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint.” 

Nicole Goodkind is a political reporter at Newsweek. You can reach her on Twitter @NicoleGoodkind or by email, N.Goodkind@newsweek.com.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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