Senate Blocks Green New Deal but Expends Plenty of Carbon Talking About It
WASHINGTON — The Senate blocked consideration of the Green New Deal on Tuesday, ending a Republican effort to hitch Democratic presidential candidates to the climate plan and paint Democrats as out-of-touch socialists and fantasists.
The resolution that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, put to a test vote called on the federal government to rapidly eliminate planet-warming fossil fuel emissions; accelerate the deployment of wind, solar and other zero-carbon energy sources; and create a national jobs program.
But the procedural motion simply to take up the Green New Deal failed to get a single vote. Democrats, including those who were sponsors of the resolution, denounced the move as a sham intended to divide their party and provide Republicans with election-season talking points. They overwhelmingly voted “present” on the motion, and it failed, 0 to 57.
Three Democratic senators — Joe Manchin III, who represents coal-heavy West Virginia; Doug Jones of Alabama; and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — joined Republicans voting no, as did Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine.
But the hours of discussion that preceded the desultory procedural vote marked the most extensive examination of climate change on the Senate floor in years. The fight also took on larger dimensions as a proxy for the 2020 presidential battle, with Republicans charging that liberals intend to raise energy costs and devastate middle-class livelihoods, and Democrats blasting their counterparts for climate denial and inaction on an issue most Americans agree is serious.
The day of drama included Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, exhibiting a poster of former President Ronald Reagan astride a dinosaur in an effort to treat the Green New Deal with “the seriousness it deserves.” Mr. McConnell dismissed the plan as a “science-fiction novel.” Outside the Senate, environmental activists chanted: “What do we want? A Green New Deal. When do we want it? Now!” even as they clarified that they did not actually want the Senate to pass this particular Green New Deal resolution at this precise moment.
“To ordinary people, climate change is not politics. It’s life and death,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a sponsor of the Senate version of the Green New Deal. Mr. Markey accused Republicans of trying to “sabotage” efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and predicted that “they will pay a price at the ballot box in 2020.”
Still, the maneuvering ultimately allowed both parties to declare political victory.
Democrats said they intended to move forward on a number of fronts. In the House, a senior Democratic leadership aide said lawmakers would introduce sweeping legislation this week to require the Trump administration to stay in the Paris Agreement on climate change and create a plan for meeting the United States’ commitment to the global climate deal.
In the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and Brian Schatz of Hawaii will announce a new special committee on climate change. Democrats are also expected to push to prioritize climate change in coming legislation on infrastructure and a deal to raise spending caps.
Environmental activists said they believed the Republican strategy to ridicule, campaign on and raise money off the Green New Deal had backfired, with even Mr. McConnell acknowledging at a news conference on Tuesday that climate change was real and caused by human activity.
“Mitch McConnell bet big that today’s vote would fracture the Democratic caucus,” said Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth movement for climate action. “Today he bet wrong,” she added.
Shortly after the vote, however, Republicans including Mr. McConnell and Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming were scheduled to appear at a $500-a-plate fund-raiser for Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa at the National Mining Association, the chief lobbying group for the coal industry.
Republicans meanwhile boasted that they had exposed a plan so extreme that even Democrats shied away from it.
“Democrats are trying to duck, dodge and distance themselves from a vote on their own Green New Deal,” Mr. Barrasso said. “Every Democrat senator running for president supported it. Now when given the chance to actually go on the record, Democrats are desperate to avoid it.”
All six presidential candidates in the Senate — Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — had been sponsors of the Green New Deal.