Capitol Report: ‘Green New Deal’ vote latest effort to put lawmakers on record over controversial issues

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning a vote on the “Green New Deal” — but not because he’s in favor of it.

A planned Senate vote on the “Green New Deal” is the latest instance of one party using a controversial issue to attempt to expose a rift in the other.

Democrats’ climate change and jobs package introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey isn’t binding — that is, it won’t become law if passed. But that wasn’t the point in setting up a vote. In the words of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, the point rather is to “see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

Also read: The ‘Green New Deal’ isn’t really that new.

A vote on the plan could indeed expose divisions among Democrats, with the 2020 presidential campaign kicking off. Contenders like Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren have thrown their support behind it, but others like Sens. Sherrod Brown have declined to co-sponsor it.

The plan from Ocasio-Cortez and Markey has generated controversy for its lofty goals such as getting to zero carbon emissions in a decade, and a plan to upgrade all buildings in the U.S. for energy efficiency. Critics ripped a blog post from Ocasio-Cortez’s office (since taken down) that said the plan guaranteed economic security to those “unwilling to work.”

The same blog post discussed getting rid of “emissions from cows.”

Now see: As vague as it is, the Green New Deal could have a real impact on Corporate America. Here’s why.

Members of both parties have variously described votes like the one McConnell is planning as stunts or games.

In 2017, Senate Republicans attempted to put Democrats on record as supporting single-payer health insurance. But Democrats largely voted “present,” with Sen. Bernie Sanders charging Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines with playing a “political game” with the vote. Daines had offered the single-payer measure as an amendment to the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill.

Just last month, it was Republicans who said Democrats were the ones engaging in stunts.

A non-binding resolution from House Democrats said shutting the government down “causes substantial damage to federal employees,” hurts the U.S.’s reputation and isn’t acceptable for resolving policy differences. It failed as Republicans objected.

“I find this resolution nothing more than a political stunt,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican and ally of President Donald Trump. “It’s nothing more than a message meant to go after the president of the United States,” he said. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, the Virginia Democrat who sponsored the measure, said “House Republicans could not agree on the simple point that government shutdowns are bad.”

Democrats used language similar to Meadows’ to bash a non-binding resolution passed by the House in September 2018, that opposed undocumented immigrants voting in U.S. elections. The midterm elections were approaching at the time of the vote, and Democrats said the move was political and meant to help vulnerable Republicans. The vote came as San Francisco began allowing those lacking legal status the option to register to vote in school board elections.

Republicans “have done absolutely nothing to protect us against the Russia investigation…but somebody’s voting in their local school council election, that’s worth denouncing?” said then-Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

In some cases, the parties actually agree on messaging votes. In 2015, for example, the Senate voted unanimously for a non-binding amendment intended to make it easier to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violated the nuclear deal.

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