In an entry-level chess move on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly said that he wants to hold a vote on the Green New Deal resolution proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts senator Ed Markey “to see how [Senate Democrats] feel about the Green New Deal.” Testing the waters, he is not. McConnell wants to get Democratic presidential candidates on the record about the controversial, but nevertheless exciting policy moon shot, so that Republicans can hit them with attacks mischaracterizing the deal, as Trump did at his El Paso rally on Monday: “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ of you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!”
If any Democrat is gullible enough to agree to McConnell’s vote, they could expose themselves to these sorts of simplified charges, which Trump reportedly considers a key to attracting voters outside his base. According to a GOP strategist that spoke with Axios, Republicans will emphasize the Green New Deal among “middle, lower classes and poverty stricken areas of America,” broad constituencies crucial to either party’s 2020 hopes. (And, arguably, the Americans that would benefit most from such macroscopic legislation.)
It’s unlikely that the maneuver will work. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias points out, “They ran this exact play on the Sanders Medicare for All bill” in the Senate in 2017, when Montana Republican Steve Daines pasted a Democratic single-payer insurance plan onto one of the failed Obamacare repeal attempts. Rather than fall for the ploy, Democrats voted “present,” except for red-state Democratic senators who voted no.
Even without McConnell’s efforts, the Green New Deal has become the latest flash point in the Democratic Party’s internal conflict between its centrists and its unapologetic left wing. Still, from the support it’s received among 2020 hopefuls, it appears that the Green New Deal will be a serious factor in the primary — as a talking point, if not policy proposal. Thus far, only one candidate, Amy Klobuchar, has explicitly stated she would not support the legislation, while Democrats including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker have expressed their support.