On Tuesday, the United States Senate passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan in a huge win for the Biden White House. Despite outcry from former President Donald Trump, even Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky voted yes. The bill, brought to the floor after months of wrangling between Congress and the White House, targets nuts-and-bolts infrastructure like roads and bridges.
Immediately after, they took up its sister bill—a $3.5 trillion bill aimed at "soft" infrastructure like tackling the climate crisis, securing universal childcare, and a host of other issues. Democrats were able to bypass the filibuster through the reconciliation process, allowing the bill to go to debate with 50 Democratic votes. However, there's unanimous opposition within the Republican party against the bill, and moderate Democrats like Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have expressed significant reservations.
Once the bill was brought to debate, the first amendment offered came from Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who proceeded to rail against the Green New Deal—an ambitious climate policy overhaul championed by progressives as the only viable option to significantly curb the climate crisis.
Barrasso's amendment was a measure to forbid "legislation or regulations to implement the Green New Deal." It was a nonbinding amendment designed solely to get Democratic Senators on the record voting against it—votes that would later be used against them in midterms.
There's just one problem.
Though the Green New Deal has been exploited by Republicans as the embodiment of some sort of socialist takeover, it's nothing more than a nonbinding climate proposal that doesn't exist in the form of a bill.
In other words, Barrasso's amendment would have no effect on the infrastructure bill.
Progressive Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called him out on it in a lengthy but emphatic speech.
Sanders told Barrasso:
"As a supporter of the Green New Deal, I have no problem voting for this amendment because it has nothing to do with the Green New Deal."
Sure enough, Democrats called Barrasso's bluff and unanimously voted in favor of his amendment—including Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who sponsored the Green New Deal in the Senate in 2019—to prove his proposal was nothing more than political theatre.
People mocked Barrasso's meaningless gesture.
Meanwhile, people praised Sanders' response to Barrasso's proposal.
The vote-a-rama for the $3.5 trillion bill continues.