Capitol Alert

Judge for yourself: Full video of Dianne Feinstein talking to children about the Green New Deal

Sen. Dianne Feinstein was scorned on social media by people who accused her of talking down to middle and high school students who called on her to support the Green New Deal in a widely watched, edited video. The full video, which was not as widely spread, made some people feel more sympathetic to the senator.

In the two-minute edited video, which had nearly 10 million views a few days after it was posted, the California senator told children and young adults telling her to support the Green New Deal that “I know what I’m doing.” The students went to Feinstein’s San Francisco office Friday to deliver a letter calling on Feinstein to vote to support the resolution with bold — and some say extreme — tactics to combat climate change.

“You come in here, and you say it has to be my way or the highway,” Feinstein says to the group in the video, taken inside her San Francisco office Friday morning. “I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected, I just ran, I was elected by almost a million vote plurality.”

A young woman who says she is 16 in the video says “we’re the people who voted for you” and tells Feinstein she should listen to them. Feinstein says that due to the woman’s age “you didn’t vote for me.”

The children tell Feinstein that they are the ones who will be impacted by climate change and she says she understands that and she has seven grandchildren.

Feinstein said in the video that she has her own plan to try to combat climate change.

The full, 14-minute video shows Feinstein distributing her own plan, asking the students to review it and tell her if they have concerns with it. She tells them she has some issues with the Green New Deal, such as how to pay for it, and that huge sums of money can’t just be taken out of military budgets. She said she might vote present, meaning voting neither yes nor no, if the Senate holds a floor vote on the Green New Deal.

She insisted she wants the Senate to consider her plan over the Green New Deal because it “actually has a chance of passing.” She talks to several people one-on-one as her staff ushers the group out of her office, saying she has another scheduled meeting. At the end of the video, the 16-year-old student who told Feinstein to listen to them asked for an internship application.

“(She) will do an internship here,” Feinstein tells a staff member, after asking for the woman’s name.

Feinstein, in response to the online criticism, said in a tweet and a released statement that the children were “heard loud and clear.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee, in trying to get other at-risk representatives to take a position on the Green New Deal, sided with Feinstein, calling the students “entitled brat schoolchildren” and Ocasio-Cortez’s “preteen minions.”

The Green New Deal, sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, calls for drastic measures to reduce the effects of climate change. It’s a non-binding bill, meaning its passage won’t change existing law but represents symbolic goals. Some of its more controversial sections — due to their likely cost — call for upgrading all existing buildings in the country to be more energy efficient and expanding high-speed rail throughout the country so air travel isn’t necessary.

Feinstein’s draft on how to deal with climate change calls for getting “net greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible and by no later than 2050.” That’s a less aggressive timeline than the other plan and the goals outlined in it are less specific.

The 85-year-old senior California senator just won reelection against a more progressive challenger in the general election last November and is now the oldest senator in office. She’s generally known as a moderate, only recently declaring opposition to the death penalty and support for states who legalized recreational marijuana.

Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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