McConnell hits brakes on ‘Green New Deal’ vote

By Mark K. Matthews | 02/27/2019 08:03 AM EST

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is a co-sponsor of the "Green New Deal" resolution.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is a co-sponsor of the "Green New Deal" resolution. @KamalaHarris/Twitter

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday it could be months before the Senate votes on the "Green New Deal" — a new timetable that follows threats by Democrats this week to essentially boycott the vote.

Addressing reporters outside the Senate floor, McConnell said, "It’s a debate we’ll have in all likelihood sometime before the August break."

But he also criticized Senate Democrats for floating the idea of voting "present" — rather than yes or no — on a symbolic resolution that encourages the United States to embrace the "Green New Deal" and its goal of fighting climate change with a government-led jobs program.


"If this is such a popular thing to do and so necessary, why would one want to dodge the vote?" McConnell asked.

The answer, in short, is politics.

McConnell moved earlier this month to hold a vote on the "Green New Deal" because he saw it as a way to divide the Democratic caucus (E&E News PM, Feb. 12).

About a dozen senators, including at least six Democratic presidential hopefuls, have signed onto the resolution as co-sponsors.

But other Senate Democrats have been hesitant to support the proposal, which includes ambitions such as "upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency."

To counter McConnell’s maneuver, several Democratic senators said this week that the caucus was weighing the possibility of voting "present" — a move similar to what Democrats did in 2017 when Republicans forced a vote on "Medicare for All," another issue among Democrats and the left (Climatewire, Feb. 26).

"We’re not going to participate in shams," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in his own remarks yesterday to reporters.

He also accused Republicans of doing little to address climate change while they control the Senate, other than threatening to hold a symbolic vote on the "Green New Deal."

"They are in the majority," Schumer said. "We can’t do anything on climate unless they get something done."

Delaying a vote on the resolution, however, has some political benefit for Democrats, as the entire caucus hasn’t agreed on voting "present" together.

Asked whether every Senate Democrat would vote in lockstep, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, "I don’t know. We’ll have to see when we get there."

As for what she would do, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — a presidential contender and a co-sponsor of the "Green New Deal" — said she "supports it, as you know." But she hasn’t announced a decision on how she would respond to McConnell’s move.