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 March 27, 2019
GOP's Green New Deal vote fails to divide Senate Democrats

 SENATE DEMOCRATS ON Tuesday largely resisted a GOP-led effort to force a vote on the Green New Deal, as Republicans seek to make the ambitious environmental proposal a political wedge heading into the 2020 election.

The GOP-controlled Senate pushed for a procedural vote to put Democrats on the record about the progressive-backed, non-binding resolution that seeks to cut all greenhouse gas emissions in a decade and create a government jobs program.

The motion to proceed failed, with every Republican voting against the resolution along with Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats.

But Senate Democrats maintained a largely united front, with 43 voting present. That left the final vote at 57-0 against the resolution, with 43 members voting present. Some Democrats called the move to bring the proposal to the floor a "political stunt" and decried it as a "sham vote," urging their Republican colleagues to have legitimate discussions on the threats of climate change. And Democrats aren't likely to face any political backlash from progressive green groups, which supported the party voting present.

"The great irony here is that right after the bill goes down -- the McConnell stunt bill goes down -- we're going to vote on disaster relief," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. "Do you know what's made disaster relief so much more necessary, so much more expensive? Climate change."

During another floor speech later Tuesday, Schumer said he welcomes the debate that, he says, has gotten some Republicans to "admit that climate change is real." The New York Democrat proposed creating a bipartisan select committee on climate change similar to the one in the House -- a proposal immediately opposed by Republicans.

The GOP, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sought to divide Democrats and force them to take a position on the Green New Deal, which they believe is politically perilous in the 2020 presidential race as well as in tough down-ballot elections.

Republicans are working to protect the White House and their Senate majority in 2020 as well as fighting to win back the House after losing control in the 2018 midterm elections. While the effort to retake the House will be an uphill battle, Republicans are emboldened since their path largely runs through 31 Democratic districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016.

"It's even more stunning to see my colleagues so angry and upset at the opportunity to back up their new philosophy with their votes. What an outrage," McConnell said Tuesday.

Republicans framed Democrats' resistance on the vote as the party dodging an "unaffordable and unworkable" plan. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said Democrats are "trying to run away from things that they have embraced."

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sponsored the Senate legislation on the Green New Deal, while freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., authored a companion House bill.

The six senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination are all cosponsors of Markey's measure including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

"This isn't the first time America has faced a so-called impossible challenge," Warren said ahead of Tuesday's vote. "It's time for new ideas, not old ideology. It is time for ground-breaking science, not political stunts."

The issue of the Green New Deal has already become a litmus test for presidential candidates, with polling showing that the proposal is popular among the left-leaning Democratic base. Climate change has emerged as a prominent issue for voters, but Democrats will need to maneuver GOP attacks about the hefty price tag likely associated with the plan.

Republicans have been furiously working to label Democrats as socialists and have already made the Green New Deal a frequent part of attack ads against vulnerable Democrats up for re-election.