The Corner

Politics & Policy

On the Green New Deal, Democrats Embrace the Fierce Urgency of Maybe Later

Wind-turbine generators in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., 2011. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

On Tuesday, all Senate Republicans and four Senate Democrats voted against the Green New Deal, a resolution sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.). Among the measure’s extreme agenda items is a pledge to generate all power in the United States from “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” in a decade.

Forty-three Democratic senators voted “present,” denouncing the vote as a “stunt” or a “sham.” Ocasio-Cortez supported her Democratic colleagues who declined to take a stance on her resolution, telling National Review on Tuesday that Republicans simply “want to play games” with the Green New Deal.

But Democratic claims that the vote was unfair didn’t seem to add up. Had Republicans altered the resolution introduced by Markey and Ocasio-Cortez? No. “It’s the same resolution,” Ocasio-Cortez told National Review. “People are forgetting that this is not a bill,” she added. “The Green New Deal is not even a bill. It’s a resolution, which means it gets introduced in both the House and the Senate and even if it gets passed in both chambers, it doesn’t go to the president. They are visionary documents, they are goal-setting documents.”

Ocasio-Cortez declined to say how long it would take for the resolution to be turned into actual legislation, saying, “When it comes to the Senate, holding a hearing would be nice on legislation.”

The resolution’s chief sponsor in the Senate, Ed Markey, also couldn’t put a timeline on how long it would take to turn the Green New Deal into real legislation, but said he’d like hearings this year. “We need hearings. You need experts. You need witnesses. You need science. It’s a very complicated subject,” Markey told National Review.

But if the measure is simply a resolution laying out goals, why can’t all members of the Senate say whether or not they support the goals now, as Markey, Ocasio-Cortez, and the Senate Democrats running for president had done when the Green New Deal was first introduced? “We haven’t had any witnesses or expertise or science,” Markey replied. “It’s a perversion of the political process to not have hearings on legislation before you bring it out. I want hearings.”

“What kind of disgrace is it, under the Capitol dome, where you’re supposed to vote on issues that have never had hearings?” he added.

But if further study is required before senators should be expected to take a stand on whether the goal makes sense, then the decision by Markey and Ocasio-Cortez to establish those goals in February doesn’t make sense. The fundamental problem, as liberal writer Jonathan Chait has written, is that “climate change experts have called for zeroing out emissions in the power sector by 2050, while the Green New Deal proposes doing so by 2030. On what basis does it maintain the time frame can be accelerated by two-thirds? It does not say.”