SALT LAKE CITY — The controversial Green New Deal resolution, authored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., was shot down on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.
No senator voted to take up the resolution, which was not binding legislation but rather a set of loose policy goals. A total of 57 senators voted against the resolution on Tuesday, and 43 out of 47 Democrats (including two independents) voted “present” as part of a strategy spearheaded by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Three Democratic senators broke with Schumer to vote against the resolution, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Doug Jones of Alabama, along with independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brought the resolution to a vote in what has been described as an attempt to pit moderate Democrats against the party’s more progressive members. McConnell has also characterized the Green New Deal as “a destructive socialist daydream.” According to NPR, this is part of a strategy to depict the Democratic Party itself as socialist heading into the 2020 elections.
However, Democrats, who have called the vote a "sham," argue the vote will actually backfire against Republicans, because it will make evident the fact that they haven't proposed alternative legislation addressing climate change and don't consider it a priority.
As the Deseret News previously reported, the Green New Deal is an ambitious 10-year plan to eliminate all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, update the nation’s infrastructure, and implement progressive policies such as Medicare for all, free higher education, and a federal jobs guarantee. Because of the resolution’s controversial progressive policies and its wide scope, it was unlikely to pass the Senate or be signed into law by President Trump, but it has been endorsed by leading Democratic presidential candidates including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirstin Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker.
Let’s take a closer look at what the vote represents and what this will mean for the Green New Deal and other legislation addressing climate change moving forward.
What does the Democratic 'present' vote represent?
[According to](https://www.conginst.org/2013/04/02/voting-present-as-a-legislative-tactic/) the Congressional Institute, legislators have the option to vote “aye,” “no,” or “present,” with the latter representing “a refusal to take sides.” Voting “present” doesn’t contribute to or against the bill’s passage.
Although some senators were willing to vote “aye” on the Green New Deal resolution, the “present” vote in this case is a response to what some Democratic lawmakers see as a forced vote intended to make a political statement rather than debate the merits and drawbacks of climate change policy.
Ocasio-Cortez told Vox she supported Schumer's strategy for all Democrats to vote "present."
"I think it's fine because this is a procedural question," she said. "I'm totally fine either way, because it's been rushed through."
Markey pointed out that no hearings, expert testimonies, or debates were held on the resolution before it was put to vote.
“McConnell 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,” Markey told CBS News.
Gillibrand called the vote a “stunt” and said that Democrats wouldn’t fall for it, adding, “Climate change shouldn’t be treated like a game.”
At the same time, Schumer’s push to have all Democrats vote “present” could also be interpreted as a strategy to depict the party as having a united front on climate change, which is not necessarily the case. Several senior members of the party, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, haven’t been openly supportive of the Green New Deal.
In a March interview with The New York Times, Schumer said that in regard to passing climate change legislation, “it’s going to take a little while to come up with a consensus that works.”
Where do Republicans stand on climate change legislation?
By bringing the Green New Deal to a vote, McConnell hoped to demonstrate how far “Senate Democrats — including the presidential candidates — are willing to go to accede to the party’s newly empowered liberal wing, at the risk of leaving moderate voters behind,” wrote Matthew Daly of The Associated Press.
But in so doing, McConnell also risks opening the Republican Party up to critique for not taking adequate action on climate change.
“I think it’s a real stupid political move for (Republicans) to show how cavalier they are about climate change by playing games with the Green New Deal,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told NPR. “If they don’t like the Green New Deal, fine, put up your own idea. It smells so disingenuous, especially to young voters. I think it’s a really dumb move for them to mess around with this.”
However, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is putting together a Republican counterproposal to the Green New Deal, called the “New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy,” according to NPR. The five-year project consists of 10 “Grand Challenges” to reduce carbon emissions and use clean energy. Alexander also wants to double federal energy research funding to look into building new types of nuclear power plants.
“I believe climate change is real. I believe that human emissions of greenhouse gases are a major cause of climate change. And I believe the Democrat cure for climate change, their ‘Green New Deal,’ is so far out in left field that no one is going to take it seriously,” Alexander said in a Monday Senate floor speech.
It’s unclear how far Alexander’s plan will move forward, as he is not seeking reelection in 2020. It’s also unclear how many Republicans would support what he’s outlined so far.
What does the Green New Deal vote represent for future climate change proposals?
Even though the Senate voted against taking up the Green New Deal resolution, it has nonetheless elevated climate change to one of the key issues voters expect presidential candidates to address in the 2020 elections.
According to a December 2018 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 66 percent of Americans believe action should be taken to combat climate change, representing a 15 percent increase from 1999. However, this belief is largely held by Democrats (71 percent) and independents (48 percent) — only 15 percent of Republicans see climate change as necessitating immediate action, the same amount that felt that way in 1999.100 comments on this story
In his March interview with The New York Times, Schumer said Senate Democrats will make combating climate change a priority in their 2020 campaigns. This is part of a strategy to reach young voters — a large constituency of the Democratic party — who are especially in favor of legislation that pairs environmental and social justice.
Before the Tuesday vote on the Green New Deal, Schumer called for the creation of a bipartisan Select Senate Committee on Climate Change, which would partner with the corresponding House committee to “actually get something done.”
“We can’t run into our ideological corners anymore. The time for partisanship on this issue is over. We need to act quickly and boldly to address this challenge before it’s too late,” Schumer said.