Dems eye ‘present’ vote on ‘Green New Deal’

Source: Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Democrats are eyeing a “present” vote if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brings the “Green New Deal” resolution to the floor, but they’ll likely flesh out their strategy further in a caucus meeting today.

“I’m still pondering it. A lot of Democrats may vote — we’ll see, but a lot of us may vote ‘present’ on the cloture motion,” Environment and Public Works ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) said yesterday of a potential procedural vote on the resolution.

That sentiment appears to be shared by even vocal supporters of the “Green New Deal,” such as Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who said McConnell is trying to “troll” Democrats by calling a vote on the resolution.

The vote, which could come as soon as this week, is an attempt by McConnell to divide Democrats and force moderates to vote on a measure the GOP has labeled as extreme.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) earlier this month introduced the resolution calling for a 10-year mobilization effort to combat climate change, drawing praise from progressives and scorn from conservatives.

The vote could be especially pressing for Democratic presidential candidates, who have tried to show activists they support taking aggressive action on climate change by endorsing the “Green New Deal.”

But Democrats said yesterday that’s not much of a concern. In a sense, it’s only given them another chance to talk about climate change, which Republicans have long ignored.

“Part of it for us is just body language. We’re not particularly worried about a show vote,” Schatz said. “There’s just no evidence in the last, say, four election cycles that anybody has been either elected or unelected as the result of an individual nonbinding resolution vote, so this is not worrisome to us.”

That doesn’t mean the “present” vote would be unanimous. Asked last night how he would vote on the resolution, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) simply noted that he’s a co-sponsor.

But Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said Democrats should have a “unified position” after their caucus meeting this afternoon.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wouldn’t say how he would vote personally, but he said the important thing is solidarity.

“We’re trying to make sure we have as consolidated a Democratic caucus as we can because this is not serious legislation,” he told reporters yesterday. “This is just Leader McConnell trying to be mischievous and cause trouble, and there’s no reason to encourage him or reward him.”