Stabenow ‘laser-focused’ on concrete policy, not Green New Deal

By: - March 19, 2019 9:37 am

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U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow told the Michigan Advance that she’s focused on policies that would curb carbon emissions amid the “existential threat” of climate change — just not necessarily through the “Green New Deal.”

Debbie Stabenow at her Washington, D.C., office | Robin Bravender

In a nod to the massive Great Depression-era economic stimulus plan, progressives have unveiled a new social and economic Green New Deal proposal they say would stimulate the economy by supplying U.S. power needs with 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years.

The non-binding resolution from U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) so far has been co-sponsored by two Michigan lawmakers: U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.). 

The plan has been widely criticized by Republicans, but steered the national discussion on climate change in recent weeks. On Monday, presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) touted the Green New Deal during a swing through Southeast Michigan.

Stabenow “would expect to support” the plan if it were “laser-focused” on greenhouse gas emissions, the four-term Democrat told the Advance this month in an exclusive telephone interview.

“I mean, I think it’s great. But we’re working on specific actions that we can take in the Senate,” Stabenow said. “And rather than focusing on those changes, I want to focus on actual concrete actions and policies that are going to cut carbon pollution.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (left) returns to the U.S. Capitol from a meeting at the White House Jan. 9, 2019 | Alex Wong, Getty Images

Stabenow also said she loves the “enthusiasm” and loves “the idea of the Green New Deal.” She opposes the plan of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold a U.S. Senate vote in order to use against Democrats in 2020.

The Green New Deal has been widely mocked by McConnell and GOP leaders, who claim it’s “extreme” and too expensive.

“Cars, lawnmowers, commercial airliners — everything must go,” McConnell told Politico. “All this and more can be ours for the low, low price of a staggering expansion of centralized government.”

Stabenow said the GOP leader “is just playing a game” to spur “talk about how we would rewrite an aspirational document, rather than working with us to actually do anything about climate change and I reject that. I totally reject that.”

Instead, the U.S. Senate should be discussing new tax policies that promote green jobs, not a “broad social document” that leaves environmental priorities more vulnerable to Republican criticism, Stabenow said.

“I want to stay laser-focused on what needs to happen to stop carbon pollution and on the things that will allow us to do that and create a new green economy,” she said.

Stabenow supported cap and trade policies under former President Barack Obama that set firm limits on pollution and incentivize companies to achieve that. She said she wants to set up more charging stations to make it easier for consumers to move to electric vehicles and argued that she has worked to make the annual Farm Bill environmentally friendly.

President Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House February 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Alex Wong, Getty Images

Most Republicans continue to deny the existence of man-made climate change. President Donald Trump in 2017 withdrew the United States from the worldwide Paris agreement. Last year, he also buried his own administration’s report on climate change because, as he told reporters, “I don’t believe it.”

Many climate scientists have argued that the United States and other countries are not doing nearly enough to avert the devastating effects of climate change.

Climate scientists have urged aggressive and worldwide greenhouse gas reductions to stop the damaging impact of the 2.7 degrees of warming projected in a report by 2040.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says that carbon dioxide pollution would need to be slashed nearly in half by 2030 and reduced to almost zero by 2050, among other greenhouse gas reductions, to avoid more than 100 million potential deaths.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (center) during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Alex Wong, Getty Images

For supporters, the Green New Deal could be the beginning of that plan.

In February, Markey and Ocasio-Cortez released an outline for the nonbinding resolution, which says it would create “millions of, good, high-wage jobs” through a massive social infrastructure plan that would meet U.S. power demands with “100 percent … clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” within 10 years.

Stabenow said that climate change is “an existential threat to our way of live, our economy — and if we don’t focus on this as the top priority, our children and grandchildren are going to wonder what in the world we were thinking.”

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.