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A Green New Deal proposal backed by numerous Democrats failed to advance in the Senate on Tuesday as Democrats protested what they called a political show vote orchestrated by majority Republicans.
The nonbinding resolution, which calls on the United States to make an ambitious effort to slash its use of fossil fuels to fight climate change, fell short in a procedural vote. The Senate did not proceed to debating the measure, as 57 senators voted against it and 43 Democrats and independents who caucus with them — nearly all of the Democratic caucus — voted "present." Four senators who vote with Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Doug Jones of Alabama and independent Angus King of Maine — voted against the resolution.
By voting "present," Democrats hoped not to go on the record on a bill that had no realistic chance of passing, even if they support the concept of a Green New Deal. The six Democratic senators running for president next year — who co-sponsored the original resolution introduced by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. — did not take a position on the measure Tuesday.
Democrats have pushed for drastic action to combat climate change as the planet warms and severe weather events such as recent Midwestern flooding have devastated U.S. communities. They say the U.S. has only a limited window to combat climate change and address an existential threat.
Republicans have gleefully criticized the Green New Deal, warning about Democratic efforts to take away anything from cars to hamburgers. They accuse Democrats of a drift toward socialism spurred in part by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a champion of the measure in the House.
Ahead of the vote Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of using political theater to hide his lack of a plan to address a warming planet.
"Republicans want to force this political stunt to distract from the fact that they neither have a plan nor a sense of urgency to deal with the threat of climate change. With this exercise, the Republican majority has made a mockery of the legislative process," the New York Democrat said Tuesday.
McConnell aimed to put Democrats on the record about whether they support the plan. He sees it as something that will fail to resonate with centrist or independent voters, who some senators will need to keep their seats — or win swing states in a presidential election next year.
The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday that he believes in climate change and wants to address it through unspecified "technology and innovation."
"This is nonsense," McConnell said of the Green New Deal. "And if you're going to sign on to nonsense, you ought to have to vote for nonsense."
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, plans to use the proposal against Democrats as he runs for re-election next year. Six Democratic senators — Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — are running to challenge the president next year.
During a Senate Republican policy lunch Tuesday, Trump signaled he wants to use the Green New Deal as a cudgel in 2020, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham.
"He said make sure you don't kill it too much, because I want to run against it," the South Carolina Republican said, according to NBC News.