Green New Deal: Senate Blocks Measure, but Advocates Plan to Keep Fighting for Change

Tam Nguyen, Staff Writer

Democrats Will Have a Hard Time with the Green New Deal: Here’s Why

It is only her first year as a representative, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest member of the freshman class in the House of Representatives, has quickly made a name for herself with promises of a Green New Deal. This deal lays out an outline for future legislation on clean energy, affordable healthcare, and better living conditions for all Americans.

On February 7th, Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced the legislation to both houses of Congress. Approximately two months after the introduction, however, the Green New Deal failed to obtain the minimum of sixty votes required for a Senate debate to begin. Republican Representatives, says Representative Jody Hice, are also planning for a discharge petition after Easter to bring the Green New Deal to the House floor.If the bill fails to obtain a favorable vote from a simple majority in the House, it would, essentially, be killed.

While the resolution has been rejected in the Senate, it has sparked a nationwide conversation about climate change, as never before. Many senators who voted “no” on it cited the radicality of the provision of closing nuclear power plants as the reason, but supported the “energy” behind it. Several senators, including Dianne Feinstein from the Democratic Party and Lamar Alexander from the Republican Party, have discussed potential alternatives to the Green New Deal. Both say that they would focus more on the science, rather than politics, behind it.

Democrats had been gathering support for the ideas contained in the Green New Deal long before its official development. Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, all Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, have declared early support for the resolution.

Unfortunately, things will not be easy for them. According to Ms. Jennifer Hall, who teaches AP U.S. National, State, and Local Government at Paint Branch, part of the reason why the Green New Deal has been so divisive, is because many people misinterpret what it means.

Instead of overwhelming the public with the complexity of the resolution, Ms. Hall says, “leading into the topic [by addressing] climate change and the economic aspects [of the deal] would bring more people in.” She adds that politicians could then explain the resolution in those regards “so people can see how they connect.”

Even if the resolution does make it onto the calendar, Congress might face a hard time creating legislation to implement the goals with President Donald Trump in office. Trump has declared that he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he holds veto power.

Another issue is that not all Democrats support the legislation. Some Democrats, including Senators Joe Manchin and Dick Durbin, equate the resolution to a “dream” and an “aspiration.” Others, including Senators Tom Carper and Dianne Feinstein, have discussed or planned to introduce their own alternative to the legislation. Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives, stated that she “can’t say we’re going to take that and pass it.”

Indeed, the Green New Deal does seem like a “dream” to America.
Wall Street veteran Milton Ezrati, writing for Forbes, estimated that the costs of six components in the Green New Deal, including 100% renewable energy and a universal health care plan, would add up to approximately $2.5 trillion a year for ten years, excluding regulatory costs. This means that the resolution would increase annual government spending by half, adding to the U.S.’s current deficits and $22-trillion federal debt. Ocasio-Cortez proposes to raise the maximum tax rate from its current 37% to 70% to alleviate the costs, but even this won’t make the cut, Ezrati says.

However, the financial trade-off implied in the Green New Deal does not deter a lot of people from supporting it. “As long as their checks are still coming from Social Security and their Medicare coverage is still there, people are fine with it,” Ms. Hall comments. “I don’t think they realize the trouble or impact [deficits could have].”

Moreover, some components of the Green New Deal appear to be very ambiguous. For example, a provision of the resolution aims at “providing all people of the United States with — (i) high-quality health care.” Yet the number of healthcare professionals is finite. If the amount of care America needs exceeds the amount of care it can provide, critics wonder how the government will guarantee “high-quality health care” at minimal costs.

“Everybody wants a lot of things, but they do not want to give up a lot of things,” Ms. Hall concludes. “I think [the Democrats] need to [introduce] smaller pieces of legislation over the period of time, instead of trying to whip everything into one piece of legislation.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal had received much criticism and tepidity both within and outside the Democratic Party, and, with the Senate dominated by and the President being a member of the Republican Party, there is little hope that it would become legislation. Its emphasis on clean energy as well as affordable housing, healthcare, and education, however, will certainly shape the presidential debates at the 2020 National Convention.