Markey On The ‘Green New Deal’: ‘We Should Not Be on the Defensive’

Markey On The ‘Green New Deal’: ‘We Should Not Be on the Defensive’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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A political football since nearly the day he and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced it, Sen. Ed Markey is done watching the “Green New Deal” get constantly slammed by Republicans–and even a few Democrats.

Markey, who chaired a select committee on climate change the last time Democrats controlled the House, recently offered a lengthy discussion of just what the “Green New Deal” is, and what it is not in an interview for an online Yale University publication.

Markey, and those he counts as supporters, likely have just weeks before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell schedules what amounts to a stunt vote on the resolution, with an to embarrassing Democrats who may vote on aspects of the “Green New Deal” which may not yet be well-understood or well-regarded by many average American voters.

For instance, the idea of pairing the greenhouse gas-reducing aspects of the resolution with it’s economic development ones comes straight from President Franklin Roosevelt, according to Markey.

“Well, the language in the resolution is essentially Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 Second Bill of Rights [on economic security],” he says. “And what we did was to say that if we are going to engage in an overhaul of the way we generate electricity in our society, that we need massive job creation and that that transformation should be jobs but also justice. So that those communities that have been historically most harmed by pollution, and will be most harmed by climate impacts, are included in the Green New Deal. And that’s the right to a job, to health care, to education, because together those rights spell security. And that we should link these goals.

“But we don’t talk about single-payer health care. We don’t talk about any specific approach, other than the larger goals that FDR, and Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have always used as the template for what the goals are for our country,” Markey adds. “We have a moral responsibility to lift up all workers and all communities.”

But one potential misunderstanding is that the Green New Deal is not one large piece of legislation, but rather a resolution meant to spur related legislation across Congress, Markey explains.

“Yes, that’s what we’re saying — that in each area now, we are calling on members of the House and Senate to introduce their bill,” he says. “So for example, there is a tax-extender bill, which will potentially be up for debate this year that will include extenders for wind tax breaks, solar tax breaks, electric vehicle tax breaks, tax breaks for storage technologies. And that’s the forum to have that debate.

“Each committee in the House and Senate, each member now has an ability to introduce legislation that can deal with the issue,” Markey adds. “So we’re having hearings. And what people forget is that Citizens United was decided [by the U.S. Supreme Court] in January of 2010. And that’s what led to a flood of money coming into the system in 2010, and that dropped the overall public acceptance that climate change is real by 20 points. So we’re now back up to 72, 73 percent [who accept the reality of climate change]. And we have a Green New Deal movement that’s been born.”

The Green New Deal has great potential to help American workers who need good-paying jobs, and ultimately a winning issue at the ballot box, Markey says.

“We should not be on the defensive,” he says. “We can create millions of blue collar jobs. The 350,000 people in wind and solar are roofers, they’re electricians, they’re sheet metal workers. There are 50,000 coal miners, and we now have 350,000 in wind and solar, and we’re going to knock on the door of 400,000 or 450,000 by the year 2020, and with millions more to come. So we shouldn’t be back on our heels. We should be leaning into this fight. We can explain that we are creating the greatest blue collar job-creation engine in decades. And I think it’s why we have touched a nerve with the American people. They are fed up with the Congress doing nothing to address this crisis, this existential threat. And if we frame it correctly with a positive agenda, I think it can in fact make a big positive difference in the 2020 election cycle.”

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