BATSUKH: Green New Deal highlights Senate incompetence

It’s time for both parties to embrace market-based climate solutions

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The Green New Deal was drafted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the Senate voted  57-0 to reject S. J. Resolution 8, popularly known as the Green New Deal. The Deal, drafted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is a wishlist for left-wing progressives declaring support for state workforce expansion, a ten-year plan for the U.S. economy, health care for all and surprisingly very little climate science. Additionally, a now-retracted frequently asked questions fact sheet — a self-written expose on the ultimate goals and delusions of Ocasio-Cortez and other radical leftists — expresses a desire to provide economic security to those unwilling to work and rejects nuclear power generation, carbon pricing, carbon capture technology and other market and evidence-based policies. The Green New Deal is a laundry list of policies that could make life harder for Americans in the coming decade, all in the name of meeting a now 11-year deadline to address climate change.

Thankfully, 53 Republican senators, 3 Democratic senators and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) took a stand and voted no. The remaining senators voted “present” to avoid taking a stance on the resolution, even as Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand have all publicly declared support for the Green New Deal in front of progressive primary voters on the presidential campaign trail. 

That Senate Democrats refused to align their votes with what they tell primary voters indicates a degree of duplicity unacceptable from our elected officials. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez stated that she encouraged Democrats to protest the procedure by voting “present.” Still, protesting a vote because it’s unpassable delegitimizes our democratic institutions. If Democrats decide to release the text of full-fledged resolution they claim solves an urgent issue, they should be ready for a vote at any time. Demanding Senate hearings on a bill they have introduced in identical form in the Democrat-controlled House is redundant. If progressives want to draft a symbolic resolution, they should take a stand with a symbolic vote. Voting “present” avoids provoking the ire of either labor interests or progressive activists, yet fails to align with bold claims by various senators about the merits and necessities of the legislation. Climate change is an incredibly important issue, but touting the Green New Deal as one of the best solutions to our environmental issues then refusing to vote for it indicates hypocrisy unworthy of the Senate.

Democrats explain the lack of support for the resolution as a consequence of attempting to preserve an appearance of party unity on the issue. Additionally, they note the absence of a comprehensive Republican proposal to combat climate change and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rapid push for a vote on the topic all as reasons to refuse to engage on this issue. However, these arguments simply do not hold water.

For their first complaint, the House of Representatives has already held multiple committee hearings pertinent to climate change in February, including some that ended up addressing the identical House version of this same resolution. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently had to be asked by GOP Congressmen to hold hearings on the Green New Deal specifically. If House Democrats refuse to address the resolution, why should Senate Republicans be expected to do so? 

Additionally, in spite of climate change deniers, a full 47 percent of independent voters believe climate change to be an immediate issue, a rise of 22 percent in the past 20 years. A full two-thirds of voters believe climate change is a serious issue meriting action. In the eyes of most voters, Democrats especially, the time for action has come. With these facts in mind, why should Democrats need any more deliberation before they vote on the fate of their Green New Deal? Refusing to vote in earnest on proposed legislation is no better than denying the facts of climate change. 

Addressing the lack of a plan from across the aisle, Republican measures to combat climate change are undoubtedly lacking, though some notable plans do exist. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) have all floated more moderate and achievable visions. Demands for far-reaching climate legislation by the Democratic left wing in Congress will have the same effect that tea party activists had on cap-and-trade legislation during Obama’s terms — breakdown and polarization.  

Finally, though Tuesday’s vote was clearly a political play by McConnell to expose weakness in Democrats’ ranks, that does not mean the vote was meaningless. Americans deserve to see that their senators care about the issues they campaign on. Democrats, if they truly believed in the necessity of the Green New Deal, should have rallied to support it. If not, they should admit that, rebuke presidential candidates who support it and vote “no.” A milquetoast non-vote should not have been their response.

In recent years, it has become standard for leftists to dominate the conversation about environmental conservation, as if it were not also an issue for conservatives. It is high time that Republicans take up climate action in greater numbers and that Democrats cease to support radical, populist changes that will bring big government into the everyday lives of Americans. In the end, Democrats simply did not want to lose face. Supporting the Green New Deal would have opened up the possibility for electoral challengers to attack the vote on grounds of further government overreach. The fact that Democrats are afraid to show their support should tell us to direct energy away from harebrained schemes like the Green New Deal. Instead, we should focus on regulatory efforts, addressing advancing levels of pollution overseas and evidence-based solutions such as global advances in carbon capture, green research sharing and nuclear energy development that will utilize markets, advance American technology and innovation to solve problems and generate wealth, not simply redistribute it.

Bilge Batsukh is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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