RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Senate is going to take a vote today or tomorrow on the Green New Deal. That's a big-picture plan put out by Democrats to help combat climate change. Republicans want to turn it into a wedge issue in the 2020 election. Here's how Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley sees it.
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CHUCK GRASSLEY: It's an unworkable, pie-in-the-sky attempt to reshape every aspect of everyday Americans' lives.
MARTIN: Democrats say the Senate vote is an effort to try and divide them on an issue they say requires urgent action. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now. Hi, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So Republicans control the Senate. Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove of the Green New Deal. Why is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing this to a vote?
DAVIS: It comes down to those three words we hear so often these days, Rachel - Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
MARTIN: (Laughter) Explain.
DAVIS: (Laughter) So she is, of course - she's the New York freshman Democrat. She has a lot of ideas of where she'd like to see the Democratic Party go and where the country should go. And Republicans are doing their part to try and elevate her ideas going into the 2020 elections. The Green New Deal is essentially her vision statement for combating climate change. Ed Markey, a Democrat in - from Massachusetts, has the companion resolution in the Senate.
The Green New Deal is also an economic plan. And that's where Republicans are really hoping to seize on this debate. They're trying to frame it as a massive government takeover of your life. And it's part of their push to put - to say that the Democratic Party is moving to the left. And they're already using her and her ideas in campaign ads in House and Senate races two years from now.
MARTIN: So Democrats though feel differently, clearly, than Republicans. All six of the Senate Democrats running for president have co-sponsored the Green New Deal. Do voters really have a grasp of what it is, though?
DAVIS: Well, I mean, this is the frame that I think it's going to come down to. Is this socialism, or is this economic opportunity? And obviously, Republicans are trying to define it in the socialism frame. And they see this as trying to take - make Democrats take a tough vote.
The thing is I've talked to a lot of Senate Democrats in recent weeks, and they've kind of collectively shugged (ph) this maneuver off. Democrats all plan to vote present today or tomorrow when it comes up as a form of protest. This is all predestined to fail. I talked to Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who told me he thinks Republicans are overplaying their hand. This is what he said.
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CHRIS MURPHY: I think it's a real stupid political move for them to show how cavalier they are about climate change by playing games with the Green New Deal. If they don't like the Green New Deal, fine. Put up your own idea. But it really just - it smells so disingenuous, especially to young voters.
DAVIS: So Democrats just say Republicans look like they're mocking this issue. And that could hurt them with voters, especially independents who care a lot about climate change.
MARTIN: So what do we know about where the country is right now more broadly when it comes to the debate over climate change?
DAVIS: So the latest national NBC Wall Street Journal poll had some really interesting data comparing the issue from 1999 to today. Today, overwhelming numbers of Americans, two-thirds, believe climate change is real and action is needed to combat it. But that movement, that change in attitude, has come entirely from Democrats and from the center, from independents. What has not changed is Republicans. The poll showed that in 1999, just 15 percent felt that climate change was an urgent issue. That is the exact same number, 15 percent, who said the same today. There has been no change in attitudes on the right.
MARTIN: NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks, Sue.
DAVIS: You're welcome.
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