There’s Still No ‘Green New Deal’ Bill in Congress

Today there’s no climate bill to vote on, there’s no bill in the pipeline and it is unlikely that there will be one soon, warns Arn Menconi.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (center) speaking on the Green New Deal with Sen. Ed Markey (right) in February 2019. (Senate Democrats, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

At Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate, billionaire candidate Tom Steyer said, “Congress has never passed an important climate bill ever.” Steyer said, “This is a problem which continues to get worse. That’s why I’m saying it’s a state of emergency.” Climate activist Arn Menconi was in Washington recently to lobby for a bill on the Green New Deal. This is his report.

By Arn Menconi
Special to Consortium News 

When one thinks of the Green New Deal, a Zero Carbon Bill, or a Climate Solution Act, one imagines a comprehensive omnibus bill that covers the implementation of zero-carbon infrastructure in utilities, transportations, buildings and agriculture and creates jobs and spurs economic growth while addressing climate change.

But despite the extensive discussion of a Green New Deal, there is still no bill to vote on; nor, does it seem like there would be time for one to pass the 116th Congress before the 2020 election.

Lawmakers write laws to outlaw crime. A major crime of the modern age is our addiction to fossil fuels that’s accelerating fires, droughts, famine, climate refugees, pollution, pandemics, wars, overfishing, acidification of the ocean, melting cryosphere, rising sea levels, increased hurricanes and tornados and the extinction of species.

Needed is one of the most complicated bills in congressional history to confront scientist’s dire predictions and provide solutions.  Even if such a bill is passed, it would only address the 15 percent of the world’s emissions that come from the United States.

The Paris Climate Agreement challenged countries to cut greenhouse emissions to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018 said we need to cut 45 percent of our fossil fuels by 2030 and the rest by 2050 to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius; otherwise, the Earth’s temperature could go from the present 1 degree Celsius to 4-7 degrees by 2100. That is unsustainable for life.

(IPCC)

(IPCC)

I ran on the Green New Deal in 2016 for U.S. Senate in Colorado as a Green Party candidate. I was a county commissioner for eight years in the Rocky Mountains. I have lobbied Congress since 2001 and ran a national charity for youth for 20 years that taught me how difficult it is to get big ideas approved and implemented. I had gone to Standing Rock in 2016 as a Senate candidate to be on the frontlines. As someone who has been arrested a few times in D.C. for my activism, I decided to make the effort to see a bill written and passed into law to mitigate the rise of greenhouse gases.

The Future is Here

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins Sunrise Movment activists in Washington, November 2018. (Screenshot)

In November 2018, when the climate activists of Sunrise Movement took over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office demanding change, they brought new hope to the environmental movement. Newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) quickly passed a Green New Deal Resolution laying out the blueprint of what a law to combat climate change might look like.

I ran for U.S. Congress as a Democrat the same time as AOC on the very same principles and lost my primary. I was fired up when the Green New Deal became a prominent issue. I then volunteered for Andrew Romanoff, a Colorado U.S. Senate candidate, on his environmental policy team to get the Green New Deal front and center in the No. 1 toss-up Senate race in the country. I knew there’s no time left. The future was here.

Shortly after I met the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her father at a climate strike in Colorado, I was listening to a podcast with Ralph Nader and David Freeman, an architect of the Environmental Protection Agency who had run the Tennessee Valley Authority under President Jimmy Carter, and had shut down eight nuclear power plants. Nader and Freeman talked about climate strikes being great but that there is a need for a bill in Congress. I immediately got in touch with someone who knew Nader and told him I would volunteer to fight for such a bill. He put me in touch with Freeman, who said he could have a bill written in days. Within a week, I flew to Washington to meet with Nader and Freeman to work on getting the bill sponsored.

In Washington I tried to find out if there might be other draft bills out there and what coalitions might be supporting them. I called the Congressional Climate Crisis Committee and asked for details about its mission. A staff person told me, “The Green New Deal Resolution led Nancy Pelosi to form the Congressional Climate Crisis Committee, a bipartisan committee without the power to adopt legislation. The committee is on a fact-finding mission, holding numerous hearings and will deliver its recommendation to Pelosi’s office in March of 2020.”

I found out there were six bills floating around but none were adequate for the size of the problem. My previous experience in politics makes me allergic to big commissions that can run out the clock and kick the can down the road.

On Capitol Hill I attended a climate crisis hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and an oversight committee hearing exposing Exxon’s cover up, since the 1970s, of the effects of climate change from manmade CO2. I met with various panelists, experts and staff. What I learned was that after Pelosi received the recommendations from the Climate Crisis Committee in March, some kind of bill would be sent to the floor for a vote. This climate action bill would need to go to various committees to be marked up before a floor vote. As one staffer for a leading Democratic congressperson told me, there are progressive congresspeople who ran on this issue and would need to have something to show to their voters before the 2020 election.

The author with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Washington last month. 

What a Bill Would Look Like

A bill of this kind would need to be an omnibus bill that covers a number of diverse topics such as getting utility companies off coal, gas and oil; converting cars, buses, trains, shipping, and air travel to electric; getting housing and buildings to zero emissions, and dealing with agriculture and reforestation too. That’s just some of the areas that would need to be addressed. Revenues would be needed for converting technology, training programs and creating jobs as the Green New Deal focuses on climate justice and social equality including Universal Basic Income, affordable housing, Medicare for All and sovereignty rights and indigenous lands.

But it’s anyone’s guess if it woud be one big omnibus bill or several. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) has a bill that gets emissions down 80 percent by 2050 with 28 cosponsors. Sixty-eight Congresspeople are sponsoring a carbon tax bill that drives down usage by driving up the cost of using fossil fuels, thus hoping to eliminate them.

My meeting with Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) was encouraging at first when he said he’d be very interested in a comprehensive bill, but my follow up attempts for a meeting with him have been pushed to after the first of the year. I had a chance to meet Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez after the Oversight Committee hearing. I asked her  whether she preferred a comprehensive bill or a smaller bill. She said, she was submitting a “subset” bill to the Climate Crisis Committee’s process with an affordable housing bill.

As of this writing Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ocasio-Cortez have introduced a public housing bill that retrofits a million units of federally-owned housing and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs a year. They’re calling it a Green New Deal bill but it only works on a small “subset” of the building emissions problem in the U.S.

Julian Brave Noisecat, vice president of policy & strategy for Data for Progress, a think tank that supports the Green New Deal, helped Sanders and AOC with the bill. He told me, “We are talking it piece by piece, with leadership from the members and the movement. Our think tank leverages data and expertise to support. The GND is a big, big, thing. Doing it in pieces makes it easier to tell the story and build the will.”

Freeman worked up his draft bill, called the Climate Action Now Bill, to mandate fossil fuels out of existence over 20 years. He told me he thinks everyone is making this a bigger problem that it seems. “We’ve got people with 170 IQs working on a 110 IQ problem,” he said. “We need to simply mandate fossil fuels out of existence with massive capitalism.” Both he and Nader think that you must outlaw a problem, just as they did in the 1970s by banning the insecticide DDT and forcing manufactures to put scrubbers on new smokestacks to reduce air pollution.

The Carbon Action Now Bill bans fossil fuels over a 20-year period in different sectors and rewards the transition of new energy in solar, wind and water.  It contains no carbon tax and does not include nuclear power. Nader, who may have been responsible for more legislation being passed than anyone, believes climate movement leaders such as Bill McKibben and others are not up to the task at hand and that the movement should  mobilize and occupy D.C. until a climate bill is passed.

Obamacare took over two years and was 2,300 pages when it was passed into law. It needed a Democratic House, Senate and president. The Democrats aren’t aligned on a  climate related bill. What I heard on the Hill is that half the Democrats aren’t interested in going after the oil-and-gas industry.

We will continue hearing and seeing a lot of podcasts, special reports, speeches, rallies, school strikes, and Jane Fonda getting arrested in Washington, but we are unlikely to soon see a climate bill to outlaw the practices that are threatening our civilization.

Arn Menconi, a former Colorado County commissioner, has run for both U.S. Senate and Congress in Colorado. He is a peace & climate change activist. Follow him at on Twitter @arnmenconi.

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19 comments for “There’s Still No ‘Green New Deal’ Bill in Congress

  1. November 24, 2019 at 09:47

    Antonio Costa raises the significant point that rarely comes up, namely that 8 billion people on earth consuming as we’re doing just can’t continue. Earth is 4.5 bn years old, human collective evolution only a few thousand and we have literally trashed the planet. China’s biggest landfill will run out of space shortly although was expected to happen in 25 years, and that’s only China. No theorizing about CO2 is a solution, humans will have to decrease consumption or continue crowding out each other and other life forms, regardless.

  2. Eddie S
    November 22, 2019 at 23:54

    It’s refreshing to see CN carry this sort of article by a Green Party member. Too often CN and other similar left-leaning sites spend too much time bemoaning how bad the Democrats have become and how horrible the Republicans continue to be — both of-which are eminently true — but then end up ignoring truly positive left/progressive ideas/policies from the Greens or the Socialists, places where true change can come from…

    Thanks!

  3. John Drake
    November 22, 2019 at 22:45

    There is a basic problem with solving the climate crisis: Americans (US people) don’t like to be told they have to cut back. The American Schtick is “can do”. They are used to doing and consuming all they can afford; the rich ones doing that to outrageous levels. When Jimmy Carter was President he told people it was time to conserve. At that time the worry was running out of the black goo and reducing pollution, not climate change.
    Well what happened? Reagan came along on the next election telling everyone they don’t need to restrict their wasteful lifestyle. The result Jimmy out the door, Reagan in. The “great prevaricator” punctuated the message by removing Carter’s solar panels from the White House roof.

  4. Robert
    November 22, 2019 at 09:53

    No “Green Deal” but the House renewed the “Patriot Act” with the only Republicans voting against. The Democrats are the new far right.

  5. Antonio Costa
    November 22, 2019 at 07:56

    A Green New Deal has no place in our collective reality and never did.

    We have overshot the Earth’s capacity to recover, to regenerate. CO2/hydrocarbon emissions and warming is but one result, and that won’t be reversed any time soon.

    We must greatly reduce all forms of resource consumption. From that will emerge something new regarding how we live on the planet.

    GND is like it’s cousin the New Deal a means of saving what we have which is hyper growth capitalism. That’s ecocide writ large.

    • Ash
      November 22, 2019 at 16:09

      An inconvenient truth. Even the people who want to do the right thing are applying all their efforts in the wrong place.

  6. November 22, 2019 at 02:38

    Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI) actually went to Standing Rock…and she has actually introduced a Bill…

    Tulsi Gabbard’s #OFFFossilFuelsAct is an actual bill… the Green New Deal is only a non-binding resolution…Tulsi’s bill is comprehensive and ready to go…
    The Bill:
    congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3671
    Learn More:
    presidenttulsigabbard.org/the-off-fossil-fuels-act.html

    • Consortiumnews.com
      November 22, 2019 at 14:40

      Arn Menconi says he spoke with the co-author of the OFF bill and that it has been withdrawn.

    • Bill Rood
      November 24, 2019 at 20:14

      HR3671 is alive and kicking with 46 co-sponsors. See congress.org.

      1. H.R.3671 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act Sponsor: Rep. Gabbard, Tulsi [D-HI-2] (Introduced 09/01/2017) Cosponsors: (46) Committees: House – Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means; Transportation and Infrastructure; Education and the Workforce; Science, Space, and Technology; Financial Services; Foreign Affairs Latest Action: House – 05/22/2018 Referred to the Subcommittee on Energy. (All Actions) Tracker:

      This bill has the status Introduced

      Here are the steps for Status of Legislation:

      Introduced

    • Consortiumnews.com
      November 25, 2019 at 13:27

      The OFF bill that you mention in your comment [H.R.3671 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act Sponsor: Rep. Gabbard, Tulsi ] was introduced into the 115th Congress which expired when the new Congress (116th) was seated. To be clear, the H.R. 3671 that is alive in the 116th Congress is a totally different piece of legislation.

  7. CitizenOne
    November 21, 2019 at 23:59

    In order to understand the minds of Americans when it comes to Global Warming theory one needs to fully understand the pervasive and all encompassing right wing propaganda brainwashing machine that causes (is the root cause of) Americans into believing that just about every truth is a conspiracy theory and also how every conspiracy theory dreamed up by right wing propagandists is portrayed and supported as fact by even moderate broadcasting corporations.

    It is the complete and total perversion of truth in the largest global mass media corporations that pays for and saturates the media-space be it on the internet, TV, radio etc with conspiracy theories that claim global warming is a hoax and also that those picking a fight with climate deniers are working for some nefarious underworld agency trying to steal your car in the middle of the night.

    I have actually had conversations with concerned folks who believe the UN is going to outlaw internal combustion engines. The internet is full of climate deniers unleashed from the shackles of reason that would deny it even until the top of the last mountain was inundated like the biblical flood in the time of Noah. (that didn’t happen either). We are living in a time predicted by Orwell where telling the truth is a revolutionary act and today there is arisen a global public space called the media which encompasses the internet and the commercial broadcasters via every electronic and other form of communication owned by a handful of global media corporations that is engaged in the business of climate change denial and every other form of lies and propaganda paid for by rich and powerful corporations to bend the tiny little people it “serves” to their will by engaging in the largest industry on the planet. The factories and mass production of lies like a giant assembly line of these lie factories we call media corporations could fill the volumes of an entire library ever single day with lies and propaganda paid for by right wing billionaires and the over one hundred billion dollar in profit per year corporations to preserve their bottom lines which are invested in the global fossil fuel industry.

    The US government is also singularly focused on the profits from the fossil fuel industry as are every other nation.

    Here at home one need only tune in to a major broadcasters electronic information transmission system to find the dark motives and the blaring propaganda disputing science as a conspiracy to steal the wealth of the nation and its citizens and this is precisely true only for the opposite reason that it is the threat to their bottom lines and the coffers of their shareholders.

    It is pseudo populism that they peddle. A fake populist movement that does not really exist. A fake movement fueled by conspiracy theory with fake victims and fake motivations to deceive people into thinking that the government and scientists are all in on the fix to conspire to convince us that Global Warming is real when it is not actually real.

    I cannot overemphasize this point. The media corporations with their syndicated talking heads who earn their pay by telling clever lies designed to deceive us all have a huge impact on the psyche of American citizens minds.

    Not only that but their influence is growing. The wilder the conspiracy theory the bigger the influence to control thought they see. Thus it is their policy to everyday inject evermore wild and incredible conspiracy theories directly into the minds of unsuspecting and gullible citizens.

    It works. That is why they do it in an ever increasingly conspiratorial way. The truth serum is to doubt conspiracy theory but again that is also viewed as a conspiracy in itself and there are endless media coverage and transmissions designed to debunk the theory that some people have some information that is counter to the propaganda. Such people are vilified and mocked by the giant media corporations as having ulterior motives that render their arguments suspect because they are motivated by whatever the multi billion dollar media corporations can dream up as propaganda designed to discredit them.

    It is on your AM or FM radio dial. It saturates you inbox with emails. It is the top search engine returns for all of your web searches. It hides behind the sin of omission as large media broadcasters fail to report the facts over and over again. It lives in the government and the lawmakers who mandate that government websites strip all information about the situation from their websites under duress of loss of funding. It is infiltrating the education businesses in elementary schools and high schools and colleges, Universities and all of higher education. Books are banned and any mention of Global Warming is stripped from the text of school books by politicians.

    In fact the mere mention of the problem has been added to the list of banned speech in some states. One cannot even legally discuss it.

    Global Warming has entered the legal framework of our nation like communism. An outlawed form of thought where the consequences of speaking about it has been banned from public discourse and in public education like the theory of evolution.

    There is no doubt that this monolithic endeavor to completely bottle up any official speech from textbooks to proposed laws is at the root of the problem.

    Do not blame the democrats for banning free speech about Global Warming. Of course they are a part of the problem but the pervasive and well funded industry dedicated to silencing any speech about a banned topic is surely not just the fault of one party or one entity. All of that is just more propaganda designed to fizzle your mind and confuse you into an acceptance of the status quo.

  8. Clive
    November 21, 2019 at 15:38

    Even if, sometime in the future, governments do pass ‘Green New Deals’, they are likely to be converted by capitalists to militarist ‘New Deals’, (especially with military carbon emissions not being ‘capped’ and a blind-eye turned to all other military pollution) as was the Roosevelt ‘New Deal’

    This one, apparently:-

    “…creates jobs, and spurs economic growth, while addressing climate change”.

    {But this a contradiction in terms. They can’t properly address climate change whilst spurring economic growth. That is why we need a Gorzian, rather than a mixed Keynesian/’free market’, economy}

    “…it would only address the 15 percent of the world’s emissions that come from the United States”.

    {But, the US government are also instrumental in preventing, or trying to prevent, every other country in the world from restructuring their economies.That is what they use the US military for – and, is that 15% of the world’s emissions with, or without, including the US military emissions that are not ‘capped’ or counted, under the climate treaties?}

    “The Paris Climate Agreement” ….. “said we need to cut 80 percent of our fossil fuels by 2030”

    {But they didn’t include military emissions. Is the 80% figure with, or without, the military emissions?}

    “The Paris Climate Agreement challenged countries to cut greenhouse emissions to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050”

    {But they didn’t include military emissions.}

    “Congresspeople are sponsoring a carbon tax bill that drives down usage by driving up the cost of using fossil fuels, thus hoping to eliminate them”.

    {But price mechanisms won’t work in an economy where we have military Keynesianism and an unaccountable Pentagon budget, exploited by ‘free market’ ‘corporate persons’. If the price mechanisms only affect civilian fossil fuel usage, without restructuring the economy to make it more sustainable you will get the same sort of protests as the ‘Yellow Vests’ in France.}

    “…he said. “We need to simply mandate fossil fuels out of existence with massive capitalism””.

    {Whaaat!? Capitalism is the problem, not the solution!}

    Has anyone seen the Congressional Road to ecosocialism?

  9. DH Fabian
    November 21, 2019 at 14:22

    Democrats had announced some months ago, that “climate change” is their 2020 campaign theme, so it will continue to be highlighted. Many Americans understand that climate change is a long-term global issue/process that has been getting addressed by many of the world’s countries. The Green New Deal would reduce the US share of climate-changing pollution. It’s actually a very good plan, but fails as a campaign issue. Most votes come down to economic issues and policies — the very thing on which Democrats split apart their own voting base. (Russia-gate drove away even more voters, but that’s another discussion.)

  10. Anon
    November 21, 2019 at 13:47

    How would the GND actually work? Today, renewables only account for 4 percent of energy usage in the US.

    The cost of batteries for electric cars is prohibitive in the long run. Electric cars batteries cost 8K and are needed after five years of usage. And there is the problem of disposing those batteries once they are spent. And then there is the problem for rare materials that are needed to build those cars. And what would be the source for providing clean electricity for those vehicles? Where does that come from?

    Where is the revenue source for Universal Basic Income, retrofitting one million units of public housing, Medicare for All? These are lofty goals, but how would this be achievable when this country has a very serious debt problem.

    • Eddie S
      November 23, 2019 at 19:26

      Currently, most Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries come with an eight(8) year/100,000 mile warranty, guaranteeing that the vehicle manufacturer will maintain it to a 75% or higher capacity rate during that time/mileage. Last I heard, car-makers aren’t non-profit organizations, so those are conservative figures. Used EV batteries are coming to the end of their EV usage-life and are beginning to be used for another 10 yrs as backup storage* in EV charging stations in CA, refrigeration in 7/11 stores in Japan, home grids, etc. As far as electrical source for EVs, studies in Europe have shown that overall CO2 emissions are reduced even IF ALL the electricity is generated by dirty coal-fired plants, which they aren’t.

      The revenue for these programs you mentioned (and other worthwhile ones) could come from a revised, more progressive tax structure, reinstatement of estate taxes, significant (50-75%) reductions in the military budget, among other sources.

  11. November 21, 2019 at 12:43

    I believe our focus on Congress (and the federal level) is mistaken in the following way. Most of the country’s voters have little faith in either political party — even the millions who vote in the primaries. And, “third” or independent parties, for a host of reasons, cannot effectuate change as mere burrs under the saddle of the two-party system.

    I believe our focus needs to be on developing new tools and from the bottom up uniting voters outside political parties and beyond ideology and even “knowing”.

    It’s a dance that deserves the creativity, passion and independent thinking/action of people like you, Mr. Menconi.

    Thank you for this piece, regardless.

    PS This is what we’re experimenting with in Texas at the League of Independent Voters of Texas, a non-partisan, non-profit organization.

  12. John McCarthy
    November 21, 2019 at 12:29

    Why no mention of Tulsi Gabbard’s OFF Act?

    See:
    gabbard.house.gov/news/press-releases/rep-tulsi-gabbard-s-act-pathway-100-clean-energy-economy-gains-national-momentum

    • Arn Menconi
      November 21, 2019 at 17:27

      That has been removed. I spoke with the co author of the bill.

  13. Bob Van Noy
    November 21, 2019 at 11:11

    Many thanks Arn Menconi and Consortiumnews for bring us some insight on this critical issue.
    I can personally vouch for the credibility of David Freeman (linked above) because he was the CEO of our Public Utility in Sacramento and was the prime mover in abandoning our dysfunctional nuclear reactor.

    It will be up to each of us voters to carefully sift through the maze and choose the correct local position…

Comments are closed.