After weeks of praising the Green New Deal for its supposedly ambitious, forward-thinking proposals for tackling climate change, Democratic senators refused to vote on the measure when Republican leadership brought it to the floor this afternoon.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) decided several weeks ago that he’d allow a vote on the measure, repeatedly citing his desire to show voters where their senators stand on it. “I could not be more glad that the American people will have the opportunity to learn precisely where each one of their senators stand on the ‘Green New Deal’: a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy,” McConnell tweeted yesterday evening in anticipation of today’s vote.
Republicans evidently hoped to use the legislation, which contains a variety of far-fetched and fiscally unrealistic propositions, either to show Americans how radical Democrats — including 2020 presidential candidates — are becoming, or to split the left on the measure by enticing some moderate senators to vote against it.
Perhaps sensing a trap, most Democratic senators decided not to vote on the bill at all, instead voting “present.” The final vote was 0-57. All 53 Republican senators voted “no” on the measure, and they were joined by three Democrats: Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), along with Independent senator Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats.
According to reporting from the Washington Post, Democrats called McConnell’s decision to bring the bill to the floor a “sham,” but the majority leader had little sympathy for this claim: “Do you believe it’s a prescription for America?” McConnell said. “Then why would you not want to vote for it? A vote for ‘present’ is a vote for it.”
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), meanwhile, said that “[McConnell’s] stunt is backfiring” and claimed “the Republican party is way behind the times on clean energy.” At a press conference for the Green New Deal earlier today, the Senate bill’s chief sponsor Ed Markey (D., Mass.) claimed he stood behind the proposal. “It is the national-security, economic, health-care, and moral issue of our time,” he said. But Markey, along with 52 of his fellow Democrats, still refused to vote in favor of the legislation.
Meanwhile, every Democratic senator running for president has publicly stated his or her support for the Green New Deal, and, in fact, all of them have even signed on to Markey’s legislation as a cosponsor. Yet not one of them voted in favor of the measure this afternoon.
Perhaps at a time when Democrats are proposing such unrealistic policies with a straight face, it is too much to ask that they be consistent while doing so. But at least the men and women who wish to be our next president should have the political courage either to vote for the proposals they say they support or to publicly oppose the policies for which they refuse to vote.