U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is a lead sponsor of the Green New Deal, a resolution mapping out a pathway to address climate change and fuel a greener economy, but he won’t be voting in favor of the proposal when it hits the U.S. Senate floor on Tuesday.
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Dismissing the vote scheduled by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “sham vote” that seeks to “make a mockery of the debate in the Senate on climate action,” Markey said Monday that he and other Democrats will vote “present” Tuesday as a way of rebuffing McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. It could also allow Democrats to avoid a vote that could reveal rifts within the party.
“They are calling this vote without any hearings, without any expert testimony, without any true discussion about the cost of climate inaction and the massive potential for clean energy job creation,” Markey said at his Boston office.
He added, “Senate Democrats intend to show unity on the issue of climate change. We will be turning the tables on Republicans who have no plan on climate change and have no intention of passing legislation to combat it.”
The non-binding resolution, which Markey sponsored with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, seeks to move the country towards “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” and the creation of “millions of good, high-wage jobs” in clean energy sectors. It is a resolution, not detailed legislation, and does not prescribe specific ways to attain the goals it lays out.
McConnell’s decision to call a vote on the Green New Deal resolution is similar to a 2017 attempt to compel Democrats to vote on an amendment that proposed an entirely government-run, single-payer health care system, Politico reported. That amendment failed 0-57, with 43 Senate Democrats voting “present,” Politico said.
“It’s just a political stunt by Mitch McConnell to play games with an existential threat to the planet,” Markey said Monday when asked why Democrats would vote present rather than in favor of the resolution. “We’re going to stand together on the process in order to ensure that we have hearings on the substance of climate change, which they refuse to have.”
McConnell has previously bashed the Green New Deal as unrealistic and too expensive. He’s also advanced Republican claims that the resolution would lead to the elimination of all combustion engines.
“Cars, lawn mowers, commercial airliners — everything must go,” he said on the Senate floor earlier this month, according to a transcript from his office. He added, “All this and more can be ours — for the low, low price of a staggering expansion of centralized government and — wait for it — upwards of 93 trillion dollars. $93 trillion is more than every dollar our federal government has spent in its entire history to date, combined. It’s more than the combined annual GDP of every nation on Earth.”
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said Friday that the Green New Deal “may sound appealing” on the surface but “the economic pain it would inflict and the power it would concentrate in Washington are anything but appealing.”
Markey, who was joined by activists from the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Sierra Club and labor union SEIU 32BJ, pointed out that McConnell is calling for a vote on a resolution that tries to address climate change while plains states cope with significant flooding and the associated economic pain.
“Biblical, record-breaking flooding linked to extreme weather and climate change has devastated the midwest. Thousands of families were forced to flee their homes and a U.S. Air Force base in Nebraska was seriously crippled,” he said. “The deadly flooding in the midwest is what climate change in the American heartland looks like. But no region of the country is immune.”
Regardless of Tuesday’s anticipated vote on the Green New Deal, Markey said the resolution has succeeded in “helping to organize, mobilize and galvanize the public” and has served as “the opening of a national discussion” about climate change and a green economy.
“There has been more climate debate in the last six weeks than in the last six years,” he said, noting that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were not asked about climate change during their 2016 debates.
He said climate change has been catapulted into the top tier of issues for the 2020 presidential and Congressional elections — and that Republicans can ignore it “but only at their own political peril.”
He said the Senate could be asked again to weigh in on climate change and related legislation once the U.S. House, which is under control of the Democrats, begins to hold hearings and advance bills through committees.
“We’re more than willing to have this political debate. The hearings will be held in the House, legislation will start to come out of the House and then it will be sent over to the Senate and we will see if Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have the ability to stonewall a debate for a year-and-a-half on climate change and the Green New Deal,” he said. “If they try to do that, they are going to do so at great political peril in the election of 2020.”
The #GreenNewDeal is about mobilizing action on climate change and finding solutions to this existential threat. So pleased to bring this most important of national conversations to Northampton with @RepMcGovern and an energized and engaged crowd who are 100% committed to action. pic.twitter.com/RKFuLSDown— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) March 24, 2019