A lot has been written about the proposed “Green New Deal” (GND) but for those who are still wondering exactly what this is about, we’re here to help.
At a high level, the GND is a broad, aspirational plan to deal aggressively with climate change – as well as a host of other issues. The advocates around GND have been very effective and aggressive in pushing the idea – since last fall they’ve held multiple DC lobbying days and other activations around the country to push elected officials to endorse the plan.
The plan was developed by an advocacy organization called the “Sunrise Movement,” and is championed in Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), who joined with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) earlier this year to introduce a non-binding resolution (H.Res.109; cosponsors of the bill can be found here) that lays out the goals for the Green New Deal. While the primary focus is on a massive investment in clean-energy, jobs and infrastructure, it’s also about making the economy fairer and more just, including goals of:
- Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions
- Creating millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure economic security for all Americans
- Investing in sustainable infrastructure
- Providing clean air and water, climate resilient communities, healthy food, access to nature and a sustainable environment, and to promote justice and equity.
To accomplish these goals, the plan calls for large scale deployment of clean energy power generation, upgrading all existing buildings in the US, growing clean energy manufacturing, decarbonizing the agricultural sector and overhauling transportation systems, among other things.
Outlook – near term
This issue is squarely at, or near, the top of the policy agenda for house Democrats, and is driving the broader policy conversation in DC and around the country. In recent weeks this has meant, among others things:
- Creation of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis – this committee has now named both Democratic and Republican members. They’ve not yet officially organized – that should happen later this month – and no hearings have been scheduled at this time.
- Almost daily hearings on climate, carbon and renewable energy issues – on any given week there are multiple House and Senate hearings on the general topic, not to mention a whole raft of non-official press events, roundtables and panel discussions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he wants to bring the proposal to a vote to force Democrats to take a stand on it – right now, a procedural vote is planned for the week of March 25th.
Outside of Washington, the Sunrise Movement recently announced that they’re organizing a “Road to the Green New Deal” tour – it’s a 9-city tour that will include more than 100 town hall meetings across the country. It kicks off on April 18th in Boston and concludes on May 13th in DC.
Outlook – mid-term
The main committees of jurisdiction in the House – including Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, Science, among others (the resolution was referred to 11 committees in the House) – are going to continue holding hearings and working the process of either drafting new legislation or dusting off previous bills that fit into a climate change agenda, if not exactly the GND.
For example, the House Transportation & Infrastructure committee is already working on its broader infrastructure legislation, and Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has pledged to include climate change related policy provisions in that package. To that end, the committee held a hearing earlier this month that examined the links between the transportation industry and climate change with the goal of identifying policy initiatives to address problems. During the hearing DeFazio said that, “Rather than debate this resolution (GND), our job is to find pragmatic approaches to address the challenges of our changing climate.”
Whether specific proposals are part of the GND or not, the GND is helping drive broader momentum and attention around climate change policy and politics.
It’s important to note that this policymaking process isn’t going to be the exclusive domain of official Congressional committees. One of the hallmarks of the GND is that it’s been a grassroots, activist-led project that has brought this issue to DC and pushed the establishment to take it seriously. So to think that the highly motivated activist will sit back, hand the process over to Congress, and say “our job here is done” seems…unlikely. As such, the Sunrise Movement, as well as the New Consensus think tank, will continue to play important roles both in terms of mobilizing attention and also in formulating the various and specific policy prescriptions that flow out from the broader GND resolution.
Finally, while the initial resolution is an all-in-one version of the GND, we don’t think that there will be a similar, comprehensive bill and a single “up or down” vote on whether or not to put the GND plan into action. Instead, we expect a longer term – and sometimes grinding – policymaking process with legislative fights breaking out on multiple fronts, in multiple committees. We’re likely to see a variety of bills being introduced and considered, each seeking to enact different aspects of the GND – in other words, implementation of this concept isn’t going to be a straight line. Instead it will be multiple paths, with lots of twists and turns over a longer period of time.
Outlook – 2020
Setting aside the merits of the GND, given the current divided government, nothing GND-related is likely to be enacted into law in the current Congress.
Demond Drummer, the executive director of the New Consensus, was recently quoted in the news as saying that the current goal is to “set the agenda for 2020.” In addition to the policy work that’s happening, activists supporting the GND are determined to make sure that climate change, and the GND, are a key issue in upcoming Presidential debates. In other words, the backers of GND are using this time to continue to both build momentum and consensus around GND so that if there’s a Democratic White House and Congress after the 2020 elections, this plan is ready to go.
There’s some reason for GND backers to be encouraged by the positions of many of the 2020 Democratic Presidential contenders. Many of the major candidates running – including Sens. Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren as we well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg have cosponsored the resolution. Earlier this year, Senator Warren said she supports the “idea” of the GND but hadn’t fully endorsed it. However, more recently she cosponsored the resolution in an apparent sign of the growing importance of this issue to Democratic primary voters and candidate alike.
A recent wrinkle in the outlook emerged this week when the AFL-CIO sent a letter to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey expressing concern that the plan could adversely affect U.S. workers – and that they could not support a GND that doesn’t address their concerns. We expect that GND supporters will be engaging with labor – as well as a broader range of Democratic-leaning stakeholders – to test policy ideas and build support for the plan, particularly in the run-up to 2020.
On the other side of the political coin – it should come as no surprise that President Trump and most Republicans continue to criticize the GND as a progressive fantasy and a grab bag of government spending, mandates, wealth redistribution and heavy handed regulation. This will certainly be litigated throughout the primaries and in the general election to come.
for more information, contact John Mulligan at JMulligan@monumentadvocacy.com