WASHINGTON — When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would bring the Green New Deal forward for votes he thought it would put Democrats — especially 2020 presidential contenders — on the spot.
But on Thursday, Senate Democrats said they welcome the opportunity for a debate on climate change, and the proposal from freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. They say it's an issue Americans care about, and one Republicans have ignored.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, joined by colleagues on the Senate floor, said: "Bring it on."
"We actually believe that we need to do something about climate change" and added: "Do Republicans?"
McConnell announced this week that the Senate will vote soon on the Green New Deal resolution. It calls for dramatic steps to virtually eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and has been mocked by critics as unrealistic and veering into socialism. Republicans almost universally oppose it.
President Donald Trump slammed it as not much more than "a high school term paper."
But for Democrats, the Green New Deal instantly emerged as something of a litmus test, particularly for candidates seeking the White House in 2020, as an issue that resonates with voters — even though more centrist voices in the party panned it.
So far, most of the senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president back it, including Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's likely to enter the Democratic primary soon, is also a supporter.
But a seventh potential candidate in 2020, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, declined to attach his name to it this week and dismissed liberal activists' contention that he has to support the Green New Deal in order to prove his commitment to the issue.
Senators on Thursday said the upcoming debate will provide an opportunity to showcase the two parties' approach.
"If you don't like the Green New Deal, what's your plan?" said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. "I hope this actually turns into a breakthrough moment in which there are some serious conversations."
Said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, "We have never been more fired up."
Spearheaded by Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the nonbinding resolution sets a goal to meet "100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources," including nuclear power.
The plan goes far beyond energy to urge national health care coverage and job guarantees, as well as high-quality education, affordable housing and a high-speed rail network.
It also calls for upgrading all existing buildings in the United States to be energy-efficient.