Opposition to Green New Deal comes as McConnell backs coal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to put Democratic presidential candidates in an uncomfortable position by forcing them to vote on the controversial Green New Deal being pitched by rising Democratic star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But he also wants to promote his own longheld support for not-so-green measures.
The Kentucky Republican routinely accused former President Barack Obama of waging a “war on coal” for imposing clean air standards on aging power plants.
And earlier last week, McConnell urged the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep open a coalfired Kentucky power plant that the utility deemed unreliable and too expensive to repair.
“Kentuckians strongly oppose moving away from coal,” McConnell said in a video address to the utility that rejected his pitch Thursday, saying it wasn’t economically feasible to keep operating the final burner at the Paradise plant in Muhlenberg County.
“Coal has helped fuel our country’s greatness and it needs to be part of our energy future,” McConnell said.
The Green New Deal is a sweeping congressional resolution with few details but ambitious goals that aim to combat the effects of climate change. While it doesn’t mention coal, or oil and gas, it calls for meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the U.S. “through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.” It also calls for zero-emission vehicles and manufacturing.
While Kentucky is the third-leading state for coal production, the state has lost coal jobs in recent years, in part because the state doesn’t have as much metallurgical coal, used in steel making, as neighboring West Virginia. The number of jobs in Kentucky dropped to a record low of just over to 6,400 in 2018.
The loss of jobs, along with coal’s history in the state, leaves many lawmakers wary of what they see as overly aggressive efforts to combat climate change. They’re eager to shield the coal industry from further decline and to aid miners and their families.
In the Senate, McConnell has derided “show votes” that won’t clear the chamber, but last week he sped up the process to get the Democrats’ climate change measure to a vote, invoking the Senate rule that allows legislation to be brought directly to the Senate floor without committee consideration.
““We’ll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” McConnell said..
Democrats howled, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York accusing McConnell of a “cheap, cynical ploy.”
Republicans have barely contained their glee about a proposal the Republican National Committee calls a “long socialist wish-list.” Sen. John Barrasso, RWyoming, whose state is a major coal producer, called it a “raw deal for the American public” forged by a Democratic party that he said has taken a “very hard left turn.”
Barrasso warned the legislation would raise taxes and force people in the energy industry out of work and suggested it’s already been “rubber stamped” by the Democratic presidential candidates.
Because the bill offers a sweeping outline to reduce the use of oil and gas without concrete details, voting for the matter could open up Democrats to charges that they support measures like banning air travel, as Republicans have threatened. And it could further the divisions between Democrats from more conservative states that Trump won and progressive Democratic activists who have embraced the proposal.