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McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal resolution

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a procedural step that will allow the chamber to vote in the coming weeks on the Green New Deal resolution, which calls for a massive shift toward renewable and zero-emitting energy.

On March 14, McConnell filed a cloture motion on the joint resolution — numbered S.J. Res. 8 in the Senate. If the Senate passes the motion, the chamber will be limited to 30 hours of debate on the resolution after which it will vote on passage. With Congress out of session the week of March 18, the Senate could take up the resolution as soon as the last week of March.

The proposal stands almost no chance of passage by the GOP-held Senate, however. Republicans have frequently attacked the resolution since its introduction in February, and have pushed to bring it up quickly for a Senate vote, a move that Green New Deal supporters said is aimed at limiting debate on the proposal.

The resolution from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., calls for a "national mobilization" to meet 100% of U.S. electricity demand from "clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources" within 10 years. It also seeks to have the U.S. achieve zero net carbon emissions and provide healthcare and jobs guarantees to all Americans.

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey have emphasized that the resolution is not a bill and that any legislation to work toward the Green New Deal's goals must come from committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate. Republicans have warned of severe economic impacts if the Green New Deal were implemented and used the plan to launch attacks on the Democrats.

"In its lunacy, the Green [New] Deal embodies Democrats' hard-left turn," Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in February. "The proposal reads like an absurd socialist manifesto."

"The ideas behind the Green New Deal are tantamount to genocide," House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said during a March 14 press briefing with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and other top Republicans on the Green New Deal. "That may be an overstatement but not by a whole lot."

But Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said McConnell is trying to distract attention from a resolution moving through Congress to overturn President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency along the southern U.S. border. Schumer also criticized Republicans for what he said was a lack of commitment to addressing climate change.

"Everyone knows that this [vote] is a sham," Schumer said during a March 14 press briefing. "We are going to ask our Republican colleagues to answer three simple questions ... One, is climate change real? Two, is it caused by human activity? And three, should Congress do something about it? The fact that they're afraid to answer those three simple questions, with no prescription as to what to do, puts them on defense."

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a March 14 statement that McConnell "will engage in a cynical ploy to undermine the Green New Deal by calling a vote for a resolution he does not even support. I believe Senator McConnell hopes that, in turn, there may be some disruption and damage inflicted on both the Democratic Party and the entire climate change movement. The American people must not be distracted or fooled by this disingenuous scheme. I urge Senate Republicans to cast aside this political gamesmanship and choose instead to join with Democrats in fighting climate change and tackling the worsening climate crisis.”

Although the Senate could soon consider the resolution, the timing of a House vote is less clear. On March 14, GOP House committee leaders wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging her to request hearings on the Green New Deal, pointing to concerns that the initiative could raise energy and healthcare costs and eliminate jobs in the manufacturing and oil and gas sectors.

"We fear the Green New Deal will affect the cost of living and economic mobility of hardworking Americans," the letter said. "We need to get the facts [and] the American people deserve answers."

Pelosi's office did not return a call on the House's next moves on the resolution.