Tempers flare in Senate over Green New Deal, climate change

PHOTO: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Sen. Ed Markey speak during a press conference to announce Green New Deal legislation to promote clean energy programs outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2019.PlaySaul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH What is the Green New Deal?

As Senate Republicans took to the floor one by one on Wednesday to lambast the progressives’ “Green New Deal” proposal that would seek to counter climate change, Democrats were ready to pounce.

In a series of speeches, Republicans blasted the Green New Deal as “wildly unrealistic” and a “radical environmental policy.”

“What this is, is an attempt, really a power grab in Washington masked as feel-good environmental policy,” GOP Sen. John Cornyn said on the floor.

He was interrupted by the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, who pointedly asked of Cornyn: “Does he believe that climate change is real? Does he believe it's caused by humans? And does he believe this body ought to do something about it? I'd appreciate an answer.”

Cornyn replied: “I'd say to my friend from New York, I know what their talking points are now, but I don't believe that what we ought to do about the environment is impose a travesty like the Green New Deal.”

PHOTO: Sen. John Cornyn (R) Texas on This Week ABC News
Sen. John Cornyn (R) Texas on 'This Week'

He went on: “This is a government power grab. It's unaffordable. It's unrealistic. And really this reflects the most radical ideology and fringe of the Democratic Party today.”

The Green New Deal is a wide-reaching proposal that calls not just for a massive overhaul of the nation's energy sector over the next 10 years, but also investments in the country's education, infrastructure and health care systems and a redesign of the entire U.S. economy.

Republicans, with giant billboards erected behind them, highlighted their price tag of the Green New Deal: $93 trillion – a number Democrats have denounced.

“Do you believe that climate change is real? Will you stand also with the scientific community which believes unanimously, or almost completely unanimously, that climate change is real? And that human activity causes it?” Sen. Dick Blumenthal, D-CT., asked GOP Sen. Todd Young of Indiana.

Young responded: “I believe the climate is changing. I believe that all flora fauna and human beings have some impact on that. I also believe fervently that we can protect our environment without wrecking our economy.”

Senator Ed Markey, D-MA, then interrupted Young: “Would the Senator yield on that $93 trillion bogus number made up by the Koch brothers? That is a made up number by the Koch brothers!”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to bring the Green New Deal to a vote in the coming days, a move Schumer called a "sham" because Republicans already plan to vote against it and haven't offered any alternative.

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2019. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2019.

In an attempt to redirect the conversation to the issue of climate change, all 47 Democrats in the Senate introduced a new, more basic climate resolution last month.

Like the Green New Deal, the resolution doesn't carry any legal weight but sends a message climate change is important and Congress should do something about it, without any specific policy attached.

Schumer said Democrats will demand a vote on this resolution if McConnell brings the Green New Deal for a vote, which could move this hypothetical debate on the record for members to vote on the reality of climate change and whether it warrants any action.

Earlier Wednesday, Schumer outlined plans to introduce a new climate change panel.

“I understand my friends on the other side of the aisle don’t like the Green New Deal. Ok, that’s fine. What’s your plan? Maybe a lot of members think they can get away without having to answer that question. They won’t. They won’t, and that’s why we need a committee focused on this, to bring Democrats and Republicans together on an issue that demands progress,” Schumer said.

Adding, “So I will introduce a resolution to create a new committee on climate. Democrats believe this is an issue of surpassing importance. What do our Republican colleagues believe? We hope, sincerely, that our Republican friends will come around and view it the same way.”

ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.

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