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Barrasso And Cheney Attack The Green New Deal

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Wyoming now has two lawmakers in Washington who are also Republican Party leaders and they're promising to make the progressive Green New Deal on climate change a major part of the debate going forward, even as Democratic Party leaders are trying to change the subject. 

The Green New Deal recently got a vote in the Senate because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to put Democrats on the record, on the revolutionary proposal that envisions American getting completely off fossil fuels within a decade or so.

The proposal went down in defeat with only four members of the Democratic Caucus opposing it while the rest merely voted present in protest of what they say was a political ploy by McConnell and GOP leaders, like Wyoming Senator John Barrasso. After the vote, Barrasso gave another floor speech on it, because he said it still needs attention

"You still have every Democrat who is running for president of the United States has signed on to this, and they're promoting it on the stump around the country." This is still their plan for America," said Barrasso.

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney is now the third most powerful Republican in the House and last month she too vowed to make the Green New Deal a part of her party's messaging strategy.

"The extent that this would be fundamentally devastating for the economy - we're going to make sure people understand that. That they know what's in this deal," said Cheney.

That's why Cheney has echoed McConnell's move and is calling for Democratic leaders in the House to bring the legislation up for a vote too.

"We call for Speaker Pelosi to put this up for a vote on the floor. We think Democrats need to be held accountable if they support this as they say they do."

The proposal's lead sponsor is Freshman New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She and the progressive wing of the party have become piñatas for Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits alike, but she said that's fine.

"There is a lot of misinformation around it, and that's fine because that's politics…they do the same thing with any policy that wants to help and ambitiously move the needle [and] improve the lives of working Americans, so it's just part of the game," said Ocasio-Cortez.

After the Green New Deal was defeated, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate announced other much more modest efforts to address climate change, like getting the nation back in the Paris Climate Accord. While they wanted to change the subject, Ocasio-Cortez doesn't.

"Our lives are under threat. We're either going to sit on our thumbs and think that a carbon tax is going to fix all of the problems or we're going to acknowledge that that could be part of the solution, but the solution overall needs to be larger."

Republicans also seem to have changed their tunes, with many in the party like Barrasso no longer denying that humans are playing a role in the earth's rising temperatures. But now Democrats say they're hearing the GOP focus on innovation, instead of using government regulations to curb carbon pollution. And Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says GOP leaders like Barrasso and Cheney are merely trying to distort the Green New Deal in order to rev up their party's base.

"Instead of a solution they're going to create a cartoon version of the Green New Deal and make fun of their cartoon version of the Green New Deal, but I don't think anybody in the country is buying it. It is in that sense a distraction because the Republicans are trying to use it to distract the public from the fact that they've got nothing," said Whitehouse.

Barrasso brushes aside the criticism and said he's been pushing carbon capture and sequestration for more than a decade.

"I've been working on this since 2008 - on ways to use carbon productively. Wyoming has been a leader in this - the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources," said Barrasso.

He said the attempt by the progressive left to force Americans off traditional fossil fuels is wrong-headed. He added they should join Republicans in looking for ways to invest in American ingenuity so American energy can be burned in a cleaner way.

"I've always been promoting innovation and invention and the intelligent use of the products that we have."

And Barrasso said those Democratic voices calling for America to be one hundred percent powered by renewable energy in the coming years are blinded by ideology and he says his party isn't going to let them win this war.

"The nation needs the power that Wyoming has to provide," said Barrasso.

While Democratic leaders are dead set on changing the subject away from the Green New Deal, Barrasso and Cheney say they aren't going to let this issue go away any time soon.

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.
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