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Senate Democrats dodge vote on Green New Deal resolution

Republicans had hoped to force 2020 presidential hopefuls into a tight spot

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., questions William P. Barr, nominee to he Attorney General of the United States, during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., questions William P. Barr, nominee to he Attorney General of the United States, during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats backed away from a Green New Deal resolution offered by Republicans, even though it copied the version introduced and cheered by many Democratic lawmakers, including those running for president.

With all Republicans voting in the negative on the procedural vote, the resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was thwarted, 0-57, preventing further action on the measure.

McConnell, who called the agenda described in the resolution a “far-left science fiction novel,” reintroduced the original Democratic version as his own to put its backers in a difficult position. Republicans had hoped to force Democrats, especially those running for president in 2020, to record their position on the resolution, which conservatives would then use against them on the campaign trail.

Democrats said they they did not want to legitimize what they considered a political gimmick and a sham vote.

Mike Lee makes fun of the Green New Deal using Reagan riding a dinosaur, Star Wars tauntauns and Sharknado

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“We’re not going to stand for sham bills that the other side is all voting ‘no’ on,” Senate Minority Leader, Charles E. Schumer, said before the vote. “They know what a trick and joke and sham that is, so do all the American people.”

Still, the 43 Democrats, including the presidential candidates, who voted “present” on the cloture vote avoided having to take a stand on the progressive goals.

Asked why Democrats voted “present,” rather than in the negative, Sen. Cory Booker said they viewed the vote as “a cynical political attempt to create division” at a time when unity is needed.

“Real leadership today would have been Mitch McConnell saying, ‘you know what, this is such a crisis, an existential crisis that my children and grandchildren will be dealing with it, that I’m going to form a select committee to deal with this crisis,’” Booker, who is running for president, said after the vote.

Four senators in the Democrats’ caucus voted with the GOP against the resolution: Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Maine independent Angus King and Alabama’s Doug Jones.

McConnell, whose state is a major coal producer, criticized the Green New Deal’s goal of transitioning to a net zero-carbon economy, which he said would devastate fossil fuel industries and the families that depend on them.

“It might sound like a neat idea in places like San Francisco or New York, the places that the Democratic Party seems totally focused on these days, but the communities practically everywhere else would be absolutely crushed by this,” the Kentucky Republican said ahead of the vote.

As Republicans took turns to describe — at times inaccurately — the propositions of the Green New Deal resolution as extreme and dangerous, Democrats pressed their argument that the vote was a sham.

“The majority leader did not call this resolution up for a vote because he thinks climate change is an urgent threat to our country,” Sen. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii said shortly before the vote. “In fact, he has opposed nearly every congressional effort to confront the climate crisis. Give me a break … the Green New Deal is an aspirational plan to combat climate change, create high-paying jobs, and develop a more sustainable economy that allows communities, families, and individuals to thrive.”

“This isn’t radical; this isn’t socialism; this is basic common sense,” Hirono said.

The original resolutions were introduced in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and in the Senate by Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. All Democratic senators running for Congress co-sponsored Markey’s resolution.

The Green New Deal calls for a massive altering of the U.S. economy across all sectors as a way to control and adjust to the impacts of climate change, as well as ensure that historically marginalized communities are not left behind in the economic stimulus it proposes. No specific policy proposal related to the Green New Deal has been introduced in Congress.

The cloture vote on the resolution comes as scientists, including some in the Trump administration, call for faster action to stave off the worst effects of a warming earth, including more frequent and stronger tropical storms, floods and wildfires.

Benjamin J. Hulac, Herb Jackson and Jael Holzman contributed to this report.