Ohio Democrat Brown Not Backing Green New Deal

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Like the rest of the Democrats currently lining up to run for president, Sen. Sherrod Brown thinks climate change represents a serious threat. Unlike the rest of that field, the Ohio progressive refuses to endorse the Green New Deal.

“I don’t need to co-sponsor every bill that others think they need to co-sponsor to show my progressive politics,” Brown told reporters at a breakfast Tuesday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I want to get something done for people now.”

Thanks to a precocious freshman in the House and a provocative majority leader in the Senate, Brown might not have a choice. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been pushing the climate change legislation almost as long as she has been snapping Instagram photos from Capitol Hill. The social media-savvy millennial forced the issue last week when she unveiled a series of proposals intended to achieve “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” by 2030.

Senators with presidential ambitions rushed to describe the plan from the New York Democrat in glowing superlatives. Sen. Kamala Harris of California co-sponsored the resolution, praising it as a "bold plan" to address an "existential threat to our nation,” then fired off an email to fund-raise off of the issue.

"Doing nothing is not an option right now because our planet really is in peril," a similarly impressed Sen. Cory Booker told voters in Iowa. According to the New Jersey Democrat, the Green New Deal is “a bold idea.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also endorsed the Green New Deal. Both launched their presidential campaigns over the weekend.

Sherrod Brown didn’t joint them. If he seeks the presidency and is elected, he told reporters, he would bring the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreement  that President Trump walked away from and he said the U.S.  should “aggressively” address climate change. All the same, he won’t join his potential presidential competitors in endorsing a far-ranging set of goals – price tag unknown – designed to eliminate fossil fuel emissions in a decade.

“There will be all kinds of bills sponsored by individual presidential candidates,” Brown said in an oblique reference to Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation. “I’m not going to take a position on every bill that’s coming out.”

Such reluctance might stem in part from the fact that the 66-year-old Brown comes from the manufacturing Midwest where industry often views environmental protections as costly regulation. It could also reflect a strategic calculation. The rollout of the Green New Deal was less than flawless. When 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her measure Thursday, nearly 70 House Democrats and 11 Senate Democrats rushed to sign on as co-sponsors. A FAQ sheet distributed by the congresswoman’s office, however, differed substantially from the underlying legislative proposal.

According to the explainer, the Green New Deal calls for “fully rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, restoring our natural ecosystems, dramatically expanding renewable power generation, overhauling our entire transportation system, upgrading all our buildings, jumpstarting US clean manufacturing, transforming US agriculture, and putting our nation's people to work doing what they do best: making the impossible possible.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s staff posted the FAQ sheet online and passed it along to numerous reporters. Less than 48 hours later, her office pulled the document and scrubbed it from her official website.

“An early draft of a FAQ that was clearly unfinished and that doesn’t represent the GND resolution got published to the website by mistake,” Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Mistakes happen when doing time launches like this coordinating multiple groups and collaborators.”

By then, though, critics had already had a field day. They skewered proposals included in the document such as eliminating nuclear power and providing income even to those “unwilling to work.”

That last sentiment seems especially out of step with Brown’s recent “Dignity of Work” tour. And after visiting both Iowa and New Hampshire, the senator returned to D.C. where he again declined to endorse the Green New Deal.

Brown might not be able to hold out for much longer. According to the Washington Post’s Bob Costa, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may force a vote on the Green New Deal to rattle Democrats. An aide close to the Kentucky Republican told RealClearPolitics such a move “is certainly possible.”

If McConnell brings the legislation up for a vote, Brown will have to come down on it one way or the other.



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