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The cynical charade of Sheldon Whitehouse on the Green New Deal



Senator Sheldon Whitehouse may not support the Green New Deal, but he’s certainly not adverse to collecting money for his Oceans PAC by name-checking the proposal in a fundraising email.

Asked about the Green New Deal, a resolution proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat, New York) that would begin a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) said, “I have not signed onto it.

“I think that for those of us who believe passionately that we need to solve his climate problem before it clobbers us, this is actually a good thing,” continued Whitehouse. “It brings energy. It brings enthusiasm. It brings a new narrative. So all of that I welcome and applaud.

“But I’m also somebody who needs to win this fight on the Senate floor. And in order to win this fight on the Senate floor, we will be much advantaged if we have Democratic unity. And so, my task, more than to get involved in any kind of particular legislation at this point is to create that Democratic unity, to create the conditions so that we can run a winning play. And then we can decide which parts of the Green New Deal should be in that bill – whether ‘leave it in the ground’ should be in that bill, whether carbon pricing should be in that bill – but we’re not positioned to win yet.

“So it’s premature to start with all of that conversation. I’m glad that it’s happening, but it’s not my role to do that. It’s my role to set the conditions for victory.”

“It feels telling though that the Senate’s leading climate hawk, you, is keeping a little distance from this, which is right now the most talked about policy move on climate change,” probed Channel 12/WPRI‘s Ted Nesi.

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“I’m doing it deliberately because I want to signal to my colleagues for there to be space for all of us to still keep working together and not have this become a point of division,” said Whitehouse. “It’s actually kind of important, I think, from [the point of] making the caucus work together that someone who’s as hawkish on climate as I am is not getting on and is giving everybody else some coverage, some space, to keep working together until we’re in a position to actually run the winning play.”

Whitehouse might not support the Green New Deal, but it hasn’t stopped him using the “energy” and “enthusiasm” around the idea to generate money for his Oceans PAC (Political Action Committee).

In a recent fundraising email for his new PAC, Whitehouse writes:

The fossil fuel lobby’s grip on Congress has never been stronger, friends. After four of the hottest years ever on record, Mitch McConnell’s joke of a response to rising temperatures is to bring the Green New Deal resolution (not even a bill!) up for a vote in the Senate – and vote against it.

This is a cynical charade about a serious issue.

The support for climate action among the American public is stronger than ever before. All over the country, on a daily basis, people see climate change’s worsening effects: rising sea levels, record-setting temperatures, droughts, massive wildfires and economic fallout.

Yet Mitch McConnell’s response to this emergency is a bad-faith stunt. He isn’t legislating; he’s trolling. And guess who’s behind it?

There’s a simple explanation for the continued Republican refusal to acknowledge reality, and that’s the deep pockets of the fossil fuel lobby, which presides over a vast network of dark-money donors and back-channel influence. Taking that down isn’t going to be easy, but I’ve got one thing to say to the lobbyists and hacks behind Mitch’s stunt: Bring it on.

I’m not going to stand around and let the fossil fuel lobby call the shots, so I started Oceans PAC, an organization dedicated to electing a Congress that demands action on climate change and ends dark money’s corrupting influence on our government.

We’re all going to have to step up to kick the deniers out of office and elect candidates in 2020 who prioritize climate action. That fight is on, and I’m asking you to join me in taking a stand against mockeries like Mitch McConnell’s call for a vote on the Green New Deal. Help me take on the special interests spreading climate denial by donating $5 to Oceans PAC today. Every dollar will go toward electing lawmakers who recognize the seriousness of climate change and are committed to fighting for solutions.

Let’s use the climate deniers’ sham vote against them, and let them know they hit the hornets’ nest. This can be a turning point in the fight in Congress to solve the climate crisis.

Senator Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky) is calling a vote on the Green New Deal to highlight the divisions among Democrats on the environment. He knows that Democrats who talk a good game on the climate will not support the Green New Deal when push comes to shove, because most Democrats, including Whitehouse, are as captured by fossil fuel money as Republicans.

Republicans get their money and support directly from fossil fuel companies, but Whitehouse gets his money and support from labor, specifically that portion of labor that is closely allied with the fossil fuel industry.

Given Whitehouse’s current position on the Green New Deal, there appears to be more than one “cynical charade” at play.

Whitehouse will at Cranston’s Central Library Tuesday at 5;30 for a discussion about climate change and sea-level rise:

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.