WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Senate turned away from the Green New Deal on Tuesday as members of both parties shunned an opportunity to debate a comprehensive climate change plan offered by Democrats, including freshman New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate forced the vote as they seek to turn the Green New Deal into a wedge issue in the 2020 elections. Democrats called the GOP’s move a “sham” and said it carries its own political risk by mocking a hotly debated issue — climate change.
Senators voted 57-0 against a procedural motion to take up the nonbinding resolution, which called for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
Three Democrats and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, joined all 53 Senate Republicans in opposing the climate plan. Forty-three Democrats voted “present” to protest the GOP’s action. Democrats accused the GOP of quashing debate by blocking public hearings and expert testimony about the consequences of inaction on climate change.
In shifting the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels, the Green New Deal calls for virtual elimination by 2030 of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.
Republicans say the plan would devastate the economy and lead to a huge tax increase. They call it more evidence of the creep of “socialism” in the Democratic Party, along with “Medicare-for-All” and a sweeping elections reform package that would allow public financing of congressional campaigns.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky scheduled Tuesday’s vote, saying it would force Democrats to take a stand on a plan that “might sound like a neat idea in places like San Francisco or New York” but would result in communities across the country being “absolutely crushed.”
By “basically outlawing the only sources of energy that working-class and middle-class families can actually afford,” the Green New Deal would “kill off entire domestic industries” and eliminate millions of jobs, McConnell said. The plan could lead to a spike in household electric bills of more than $300 a month, he said.
President Donald Trump also weighed in against the plan, which the White House called “job crushing.” At a luncheon with Senate Republicans, Trump urged lawmakers to keep the Green New Deal alive as an issue to use against Democrats.
“Climate change is not a joke,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the resolution’s lead Senate author. “Mocking it is shameful.”
Ocasio-Cortez, the lead House author, lashed out at GOP lawmakers who squashed her signature proposal on Twitter. The newly-elected House member also took credit for convincing her fellow Democrats to simply vote “present” at the 57-0 vote, instead of taking part in the one-sided affair.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of a half-dozen senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president, said Republicans treat climate change “as a game” and said Democrats “will not fall for this stunt.”
Slowing climate change “should be our nation’s moonshot” in the 21st century, Gillibrand said, calling it a generational challenge similar to the race to the moon in the 1960s.
The Green New Deal goes far beyond energy to urge national health care coverage and job guarantees, high-quality education and affordable housing, as well as “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States” to be energy-efficient.
Democrats have not specified a price tag for this wide-reaching agenda, but Republicans say costs could run into the tens of trillions of dollars.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)