Instinctively I love this. Make the Democrats own Ocasio-Cortez’s crackpot ideas.
In practice, though, how much damage would it really do?
.@Senatemajldr: "I've noted with great interest the Green New Deal. And we're going to be voting on that in the Senate. Give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the #GreenNewDeal." pic.twitter.com/1HP5lSDjzM
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 12, 2019
He’s going to force half the 2020 field to go on record on whether they support or oppose the Green New Deal! Except … they’re all already on record. This would be an easy vote for Dem candidates, as they’re all terrified of alienating progressive primary voters who are cheering on Ocasio-Cortez. McConnell doesn’t need a floor vote to hang the GND around the Democratic nominee’s neck. They’re doing it themselves, voluntarily.
But wait, he’ll also end up forcing all the Senate Democrats who are facing tough reelections in 2020 to go on record! True, and that’s useful. But there just aren’t that many Dems looking at brutal red-state reelection bids next year. Doug Jones is, but he’s probably a goner no matter what. There are Dems running in purple states against whom this vote might prove useful — specifically, I’m thinking of Gary Peters in Michigan, Tina Smith in Minnesota, and Mark Warner in Virginia. But what if they vote present? They could do so on quasi-principled grounds: “Because this is nothing more than a stunt by Leader McConnell in introducing a Democratic bill that the House hasn’t even voted on, we decline to participate. The Senate has too much serious business to address to waste time on nonsense like this.”
You think any of those purple-staters are losing reelection if they give that answer? C’mon. A Twitter pal even floated the idea of Democrats filibustering the bill on some “neutral” grounds like the fact that it hasn’t gone through proper procedures in the chamber like a mark-up, committee hearings, etc.
Any political benefit the GOP derives from the Green New Deal is already assured by the fact that the 2020 candidates are pandering their balls off to embrace it. Cory Booker is out there arguing that eating meat is unsustainable and chattering about the pleasures of vegan french toast, for fark’s sake. If anything, a floor vote in which 2020 candidates support the bill might backfire a teensy bit by convincing potential Green Party candidates that the Democratic mainstream has moved left on climate change and thus a vigorous third-party run isn’t needed next year. AOC herself is basically a Green masquerading as a Democrat, just as Bernie is a socialist masquerading as a Democratic candidate. It’s silly for the Greens to run their own candidate to drive Democrats towards the fringe when Ocasio-Cortez is doing that for them from the inside.
Righties like this idea of a floor vote because it formally recognizes a reality that’s already apparent, namely that there are cracks within the Democratic Party about how far left to go and the GOP will seek to exploit them whenever possible. If McConnell can do his part to set Ocasio-Cortez and centrist Dems at each other’s throats, he’s gonna do it. The effort is welcome, even if it’s destined to be less effective than one would hope.