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 February 13, 2019
Mitch McConnell tests the Green New Deal

 On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he intends to put the Green New Deal resolution, proposed last week by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, up for a vote. "I've noted with great interest the Green New Deal," he said during a press conference. "We're going to be voting on that in the Senate. We'll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal."

Republicans, of course, have made no secret of how they feel about the resolution, which envisions both a dramatic transformation of the American energy economy and the creation of expansive new social-welfare commitments, including a federal job guarantee. In his El Paso speech last night, President Trump said, falsely, that Democrats would ban cows and air travel, repeating claims that have been circulating in conservative media.

Here McConnell seems to be acting more out of habit than in line with any grand strategy. Republicans have never needed evidence to make the case that Democrats are wild-eyed radicals. On climate policy, specifically, voters are well acquainted with Republican rhetoric about creeping socialism under the guise of light-bulb-efficiency standards. This is the approach that they would be taking if the Green New Deal had never been conceived and the approach that they would continue to take even if every Democrat in the Senate voted down the resolution.

And, as ambitious as the Green New Deal is, backing it isn't very fraught with political risk for most Democrats. In December, before the resolution's release, Yale's Program on Climate Change Communication found that eighty-one per cent of registered voters supported the broad goals of the Green New Deal to some degree. That figure may have softened in the wake of the criticisms levelled during last week's rollout, but Americans are plainly deeply troubled by the climate crisis. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, also from December, found that sixty-six per cent of Americans want to see action on climate change, with a forty-five per cent plurality favoring "immediate" action. A Gallup poll from last spring found majorities of Americans supporting the notion that environmental protection should take precedence over economic growth and the development of American fossil-fuel supplies. It should be no surprise, given these numbers, that seventy-eight Democrats---including all five of the Senate's announced 2020 contenders---have already put themselves on the record for the Green New Deal by co-sponsoring it.

The resolution will surely be opposed by some Democratic centrists. This, perhaps counterintuitively, makes an up-or-down vote extraordinarily convenient for activists supporting the Green New Deal---from groups like the Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, and the Sierra Club---who will be able to put pressure on those who reject the resolution in the months ahead. Broadly speaking, a vote on the resolution will do little more for Republicans than further elevate an issue on which they're deeply at odds with public opinion.