Manchin “no” vote on Green New Deal a sign of things to come

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Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate held a procedural vote to advance SJR 8, which “recognized the duty of the federal government to create a Green New Deal”.

That the motion introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) went down in flames at 57-0 is no surprise in the Republican-controlled Senate, and the vote was clearly more about political posturing by the Republican Party than any serious attempt to consider the policy.

But the vote also reinforced one of the central political facts about the Green New Deal: it is doomed not only in the current Republican-led Senate, but is very unlikely to get through the Senate even if Democrats regain a majority in 2020.

Of the four Democrats who voted against the bill, one is Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who became the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENRC) after Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) left to become ranking member of the Commerce Committee.

When one party regains a majority in the Senate, the ranking member becomes the chair of the committee. ENRC is the committee that all climate and energy legislation must go through, and under Joe Manchin – who has financial ties to the coal industry and shot a rifle at a climate bill in an ad – it is unlikely that any aggressive clean energy legislation will go through, certainly not anything that puts an end to coal-fired power as this bill would.

A press statement issued by Senator Manchin underscored this point:

While I appreciate the renewed conversation around climate change that the Green New Deal and its supporters have sparked, I think we need to focus on real solutions that recognize the role fossil fuels will continue to play. That’s why I voted against the resolution today.

So while it is notable that the concept of a Green New Deal has wide support among Republican as well as Democratic voters, that does nothing to change Joe Manchin’s position as the gatekeeper of energy legislation in the U.S. Senate; nor does it change a Democratic Party that allowed Manchin to take on this role.

As we at pv magazine have stated before, while this proposal has zero chance at the federal level, efforts to move to high levels of renewable energy are proving much more successful at the state level. This U.S. Senate vote comes only days after New Mexico became the fourth state-level jurisdiction to mandate 100% renewable and/or zero-carbon electricity by 2045/2050, and after Puerto Rico’s House approved a measure to move the island to 100% renewable energy by 2050.