Republicans yesterday blasted the "Green New Deal," marking a new phase in the messaging war, as New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez prepares to release a resolution outlining the progressive climate platform in broad strokes.
At their weekly press conference yesterday, Senate GOP leaders called the plan a "raw deal" that would raise household energy costs by "up to $3,000 every single year."
"The Democrats’ agenda is a leftist agenda that would reverse the gains and progress that we have made," said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), adding that marginal tax rates have not hit 70 percent in more than 50 years.
The "Green New Deal" does not yet include any hard policy proposals, but Thune pulled the numbers from an analysis by the right-leaning American Action Forum, which found that transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy would "translate to an average of between $576 and $3,882 more spent on electricity per year per residence." Ocasio-Cortez has also floated top income tax rates as high as 70 percent as a pay-for.
The comments are the strongest Republican response yet to the "Green New Deal," a set of ideas that would have been considered fringe just a few months ago. They are also similar to talking points and press releases circulated in recent weeks by conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute.
Still, Ocasio-Cortez has built a significant base of Democratic support for her resolution ahead of its release, even if some veteran climate hawks are staying on the sidelines.
The resolution is essentially a framework for the "Green New Deal," a guide to what Democrats should eventually put into law. It will "call for a national, social, industrial and economic mobilization at a scale not seen since World War II," according to a memo call for co-sponsors circulated by Ocasio-Cortez’s office.
The memo, first reported by Axios and Bloomberg, is light on details. But it lays out an approach to tackling climate change closely mirroring the ideas Ocasio-Cortez has been talking about for months, including a move to net-zero emissions, large investments in climate resilience and technology, and a just transition for fossil fuel workers.
Other reports have suggested the resolution won’t call for a ban on fossil fuel development, a controversial proposal popular in some progressive circles.
"The goals set by the Green New Deal resolution will be accomplished through a 10-year plan that takes on a series of industrial and infrastructure projects that will transform every sector of our economy and society," the memo reads. "Throughout the resolution, we establish requirements of justice and economic security to ensure that the society we create through the Green New Deal ensures a new era of shared prosperity for all."
House co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, a longtime climate hawk and carbon tax supporter, and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Yvette Clarke of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Ro Khanna and Ted Lieu of California, Joe Neguse of Colorado, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
A number of progressive groups, including 350.org, the Sunrise Movement and NextGen America, are listed as supporters of the resolution, pending the final legislative language, which is still in the works.
League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said his group is "applauding it in general," though he stopped short of specifically endorsing the resolution.
"We’re in touch with them constantly," he told reporters last night ahead of the State of the Union, which he attended with Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). "The details aren’t yet totally nailed down, but I’m certain it will be positive."
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will introduce a companion in the Senate, but the messaging measure will be much more powerful in the House, where Democrats control the agenda and have sought an intense focus on climate change.
It’s not yet clear whether House leadership will allow a vote on the resolution. But while many Democrats are excited by the enthusiasm that activist groups have brought to the "Green New Deal," some are keeping a cautious outlook.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he doesn’t plan to sign on as a co-sponsor yet, though he said he is "strongly supportive" of the "Green New Deal."
"I want to engage more with my colleagues and work through the parameters of the eventual legislation," Schatz told reporters yesterday. "As you know, the resolution from Senator Markey frames the concept, which I think is constructive, but I’ll be working on my own legislation."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) similarly said he is "looking at" the Markey resolution, but he warned against policy fights while Republican climate skeptics still control the Senate.
"The key thing is not to get into any internal circular firing squads over what should and should not be in a Green New Deal until we’re in a position to win the battle," he told E&E News. "Fighting over the prize before you’re ready to win the battle is bad sequencing."
Reporter George Cahlink contributed.