Chris White, DCNF
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said in 2019 that she would consider ending the Senate filibuster as president if Republican lawmakers refused to embrace legislation addressing what she and other Democrats believe is a climate crisis.
Harris, who was selected Tuesday as running mate on former Vice President Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential bid, made the suggestion during a CNN climate crisis town hall in September 2019 before ending her own run for president in December.
“If they fail to act, as president of the United States, I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal,” Harris said, referring to potential Republican opposition to climate legislation.
Her remarks were the first time Harris expressed support for ending the filibuster, a procedural requirement that any legislation get 60 votes to end the Senate’s unlimited debate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats against weakening the procedure in August 2019.
“The legislative filibuster is directly downstream from our founding tradition. If that tradition frustrates the whims of those on the far left, it is their half-baked proposals and not the centuries-old wisdom that need retooling,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, wrote in an August 2019 op-ed for The New York Times.
Democrats would need to flip three Republican seats in the Senate to gain control of the chamber. They would also need 60 votes to win a filibuster-proof majority, which is unlikely given the map of Senate seats up for election. If Democrats cannot collect the requisite number of votes, then the GOP would still have the ability to block legislation unless the filibuster rules were changed.
Harris backed the Green New Deal in 2019, which sought to aggressively cut carbon emissions over the next decade. The resolution, crafted by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called for “10-year national mobilizations” toward addressing climate change.
A fact sheet published alongside the proposal said the plan would “mobilize every aspect of American society on a scale not seen since World War 2.” Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal would reportedly phase out fossil fuel usage within 12 years. Studies show the plan would come with a hefty price.
Americans could be forced to pay up to $93 trillion to implement the Green New Deal over a decade, the conservative-leaning American Action Forum noted in a study in February 2019.
Republicans in the Senate torpedoed the legislation in March 2019, while Democratic lawmakers called the vote a political stunt. The Republicans defeated the proposal 57-0, with McConnell calling the bill a socialistic ploy designed to kill the economy.
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