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House Democrats adopt Green New Deal jobs talking point as they reveal new climate bill

A setback in the Senate has done little to stop the resolution's ideas from taking root.

Senator Edward Markey, (D-MA) speaks on Capitol Hill on March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Senator Edward Markey, (D-MA) speaks on Capitol Hill on March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after the Green New Deal resolution faced a setback in the Senate, House Democrats appeared to have broadly adopted one of the proposal’s leading talking points as they pitched separate climate legislation.

“This is about jobs, about good, paying green jobs,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Wednesday, introducing the Climate Action Now Act, also known as House Resolution 9.

The new resolution urges the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement and seeks to block the federal government from using any funds to further efforts to leave the climate accord. Moreover, the act — if adopted into law — would require President Donald Trump to submit a plan to Congress within 120 days providing an outline for how the country will meet its individual Paris contributions.

Pelosi wasn’t alone in talking about jobs in announcing the new climate proposal. Almost every speaker Wednesday morning touted the job-creation elements inherent in combating climate change.

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“We can create millions of good-paying, clean energy jobs right now,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), who is leading the House’s select committee on climate change. Castor also highlighted the environmental justice components of addressing climate change, acknowledging the disproportionate impact global warming and pollution have on frontline communities.

“The American people know that the climate crisis is the existential threat of our time,” Pelosi added, noting that addressing climate change has emerged as a “caucus-wide priority” for Democrats, especially for newer lawmakers.

But beyond acknowledging the threat of climate change, Pelosi emphasized the economic benefits of shifting away from fossil fuels and towards carbon neutral energy sources.

That language echoes the nonbinding Green New Deal Resolution introduced in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). The Green New Deal calls for dramatic action to meet 100 percent of the country’s power demand with renewable, emissions-free sources in around a decade, along with creating jobs and enshrining social justice principles like universal health care access.

Even Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Sean Casten (D-IL), who have both voiced skepticism over the ideas proposed under the Green New Deal, highlighted the economic boon posed by an energy shift during Wednesday’s announcement.

That marks a growing trend in the language used by Democrats, one that largely mimics the talking points surrounding the Green New Deal resolution. Bolstered by growing momentum and activists like those behind the youth-led Sunrise Movement, the Green New Deal’s star power has dramatically shifted conversations surrounding climate action, even as the resolution has hit snags.

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Wednesday’s announcement also comes on the heels of a show vote on the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate, one that saw it fail with 57 votes opposing and 0 in favor after Democrats largely united to vote “present” in a show of protest. But a day later, the resolution’s talking points are still resonating.

“We can do this. And together we will,” said Castor, touting the “American ingenuity and innovation” that can “power the future,” all while bolstering the economy.

Of course, talking points don’t necessarily translate to a plan. And the actual text of the Climate Action Now Act deals exclusively with the Paris Agreement. The word “job” isn’t mentioned once, and there is no indication of how the United States might take concrete action to meet the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

Climate experts have also said that far more dramatic action than the Paris Agreement is needed in order to mitigate the impacts of global warming.

But the language surrounding conversations about climate action points to a victory for the Green New Deal’s proponents. It also reflects an acknowledgement of public sentiment.

Polling indicates that most U.S. residents are worried about climate change and want action. The Green New Deal’s components also poll well themselves — that is, until the potential costs of the plan are discussed, with those costs often dramatically inflated by the resolution’s opponents.

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Republicans also appear to be taking note. While they remain united against the Green New Deal, some GOP lawmakers have begun to argue that the party needs an approach to tackling climate change.

“It’s important to have a Republican message on climate change that’s clear,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told reporters this week. “It’s clear why we’re opposed to the Green New Deal. It’s an assault on cars and cows and combustion. But it’s not as clear what we’re for.”

And while Republicans struggle to find a message, Democrats are largely embracing the spirit, if not the letter, of the Green New Deal itself. Shortly after the Climate Action Now Act’s unveiling on Wednesday morning, Senate Democratic leaders announced their own select committee on climate change, similar to the one chaired by Castor in the House.

In a statement announcing the committee, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) praised “a clean energy transition” as “good for jobs and the economy.” That talking point also surfaced during the press conference unveiling the committee, as Markey, one of the main architects of the Green New Deal, cheered the move.

“We can save all of creation through engaging in massive job creation,” he said.