Green New Deal vote set to test Dem unity

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) this week will face his biggest test keeping White House hopefuls aligned with the rest of the Democratic caucus when Republicans force a vote on the Green New Deal.

Schumer wants all Democrats to vote “present” on the motion to proceed to the ambitious, and divisive, climate change measure championed by firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), despite the fact that several presidential candidates in the chamber have already endorsed her proposal.

Schumer’s challenge:

The Senate’s companion resolution, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who are all running for president.

McConnell’s play:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scheduled the vote in hopes of driving a wedge between 2020 Democrats, who are trying to appeal to the party’s liberal base, and more centrist Democrats who face competitive reelection campaigns next year.

McConnell says the Green New Deal has all the components for “a good old-fashioned, state-planned economy,” and that it is “garden variety 20th century socialism.”

Dem response:

Democrats argue McConnell is setting up a “sham vote” and note that liberal advocacy groups like the Sunrise Movement and Credo Action that back the Green New Deal have given senators a pass to vote “present.” They also say polling shows majorities of Americans think climate change is a serious problem that requires action.

The Green New Deal, however, is a sensitive topic within Democratic circles and has failed to garner sponsorship from even ardent environmentalists like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Whitehouse says the Green New Deal “doesn’t have substance yet” and describes it as “aspirational.”

He said he likes the aspiration but hasn’t co-sponsored the resolution.

“I’m a legislator and I like bills,” he said.

What’s in the deal: The proposal says the federal government must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create millions of high-wage jobs by investing in sustainable infrastructure.

It sets a 10-year schedule to meet 100 percent of the nation’s power demand through renewable, zero-emission energy sources and upgrade all buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency.

Will there be any Dem defectors?:

At least one Democrat is preparing to break ranks. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, said he plans to vote against the measure.

“They can do what they want to do. I’m not a present-type guy,” he told The Hill last month.

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