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Dianne Feinstein gets into testy exchange with schoolkids over the Green New Deal

The student activists confronted the California senator on the Green New Deal.

Senator Dianne Feinstein stands in a elevator while the doors are closing.
Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein got into a testy confrontation with a group of schoolchildren over the longtime senator’s refusal to back the Green New Deal.

In an edited video posted to Twitter and Facebook by the Sunrise Movement, an organization that encourages youth activism on climate change, the California Democrat takes a stern tone with the roughly dozen children who had gathered in her office Friday to press her to support the ambitious new resolution tackling climate change.

“There’s no way to pay for it,” Feinstein tells the group of children, whose ages ranged from 7 to 16. “I don’t agree with what the resolution says. That’s part of it.”

”We have tons of money going to [the] military,” one girl interjected.

“That resolution will not pass the Senate, and you can take that back to whoever sent you here and tell them,” Feinstein responded. “I’ve been in the Senate for over a quarter of a century, and I know what can pass and I know what can’t pass.”

Edited video of the exchange, in which Feinstein appears to be dismissive toward the concerns of young children, quickly went viral heading into the weekend. In the clip, Feinstein appears bristly to the kids and stresses that she doesn’t have to cave to their demands — her job is to represent her constituents, and it will be several Senate election cycles before these children will be of voting age.

The full version of the video, however, paints a broader picture. Feinstein still doesn’t come off great, but she clearly engages with the children — at one point she even discussed internship opportunities for one of the older activists in the group.

At issue is the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan on climate change that’s been championed by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who earlier this month introduced a resolution along with Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. As it stands now, the Green New Deal is a broad mission statement outlining priorities to aggressively tackle climate change, but crucially, it’s not a firm piece of policy or legislation. The resolution broadly outlines a 10-year plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and emphasizes massive federal investment into green infrastructure as a means of creating jobs and mitigating climate change.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring the resolution up for a vote as early as next week — not because he agrees with it, but because it would potentially cause a rift in the Democratic Party. Virtually all of the biggest 2020 candidates are co-sponsors, but some moderate Democrats, like Feinstein, have been reluctant to sign onto what is, at its core, an argument for radical change. Any vote on this broad mission statement would force both groups to be on record about a resolution that has its flaws — not to mention a few hiccups in recent weeks.

Feinstein is one of the many Democrats on the fence in the wake of the resolution’s rocky rollout. Once confronted Friday morning by the Sunrise Movement activists, Feinstein remained adamant that the resolution was flawed and had little chance of passing the Senate. She instead handed the group drafts of her own proposal, which would take a less aggressive approach toward decreasing carbon levels.

”I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Feinstein told the group. “I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that.”

Feinstein later released a statement calling the interaction “a spirited discussion.” She said the children should know that “they were heard loud and clear.”

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