Nor was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who orchestrated the vote, interested in furnishing any of those specifics. The details were never the point: McConnell sought to force individual Democrats into taking a stand on the expansive proposal, which remains controversial in the caucus.
Read: A centuries-old idea could revolutionize climate policy
In protest, 43 Democrats declined to oblige him, abstaining from the roll call and voting only “present.” All six Senate Democrats openly running for president—that is, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand—co-sponsored the resolution but still voted present on it. Yet because of its four dissensions, the caucus still failed to mount a unified front.
Not that Republicans perfectly executed their strategy either. Polling on the Green New Deal has not nearly been as catastrophic as GOP leaders initially hoped. Sixty-three percent of Americans believe the Republican position on climate change is “outside the mainstream,” according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
McConnell originally meant to hold the test vote in February, but he delayed it by four weeks after Democrats threatened a boycott. And while Republicans have shot down Democratic climate proposals, they have offered no consensus alternatives of their own. “It’s clear why we’re opposed to the Green New Deal,” Senator Lamar Alexander told Politico on Monday, “but it’s not as clear what we’re for.”
While Democrats agree on the danger of climate change, they have their own problems. As a counter to McConnell’s gambit, Senate Democrats have offered a resolution that does little more than say that climate change is real and caused by humans, and that someone with power in the federal government should do something about it. Here is its full text:
That it is the sense of Congress that—
(1) climate change is real;
(2) human activity during the last century is the dominant cause of the climate crisis; and
(3) the United States and Congress should take immediate action to address the challenge of climate change.
The resolution has so far attracted the support of only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. McConnell has not yet scheduled it for a vote. And even if he did, it seems to miss the underlying critique guiding the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led activist group that supports the Green New Deal: that Democrats, despite agreeing on the danger of climate change, do not have a consensus plan to do anything about it (though The Atlantic has learned that House Democratic leaders are set to announce on Wednesday a climate plan meant to unite their caucus).
Read: 7 reasons Democrats won’t pass a Green New Deal
After the vote on Tuesday evening, the senators who opposed the Green New Deal explained their break with party unity while emphasizing the need for some action on climate change.