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WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday the U.S. Senate would vote in coming weeks on the "Green New Deal," an ambitious Democratic environmental proposal that has become a lightning rod for Republican criticism.
"The Green New Deal continues to be an interesting discussion for, particularly, Republicans and we will, of course, give our Democratic friends who've been advocating this proposal an opportunity to debate it and vote on it on the Senate floor sometime in the next couple of weeks," McConnell said.
Other Republicans speaking to reporters at the Capitol denounced the plan, which aims to slash U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to negligible levels in a decade.
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa called it the "green raw deal" and said: "It is a slam to our agricultural community."
The document introduced last month marked the first formal attempt by lawmakers to define legislation to create big government-led investments in clean energy, infrastructure and social programs. The goal is to transition the U.S. economy away from burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gasses blamed for climate change, rising sea levels and severe storms.
Republicans have pounced on the proposal, saying it was too expensive and would raise taxes and energy costs. Republican President Donald Trumps administration opposes action on climate change and favors boosting U.S. production of oil, gas and coal.
Republicans, who control the Senate, have used the Green New Deal to try to sow discord among Democrats, painting their political rivals as shifting to the left and embracing extreme policies.
Some Democrats have hit back at the Republican call for a vote before hearings and debates on the issue, calling it a "cynical" move.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday that Democrats were united in their desire to address climate change.
"The bottom line is very simple. We Democrats believe very strongly that we have to do something about climate change. There are different views as to what we should do, but we're united in the fact that we should do something."
The issue is greeted with silence from Republicans, he said.
"They cannot even bring themselves to say that climate change is real," Schumer said. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)