In a viral video released Friday that received nearly six million views by Saturday morning, veteran U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) faces down 15 middle and high school students from the San Francisco Bay area and pointedly refuses to support the Green New Deal.
“This is how @SenFeinstein reacted to children asking her to support the #GreenNewDeal resolution—with smugness + disrespect,” the Sunrise movement tweeted in response. “This is a fight for our generation’s survival. Her reaction is why young people desperately want new leadership in Congress.”
“You know what’s interesting about this group is, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing,” Feinstein said. “You come in here and say, ‘It has to be my way or the highway.’ I don’t respond to that.”
Common Dreams calls the moment an “unbelievable exchange”, in which a “visibly annoyed” Feinstein “told the group that she knows better as she explained her belief that a bold and ambitious Green New Deal is not urgently needed. You just need to shut up and wait, she basically told them.”
Feinstein “told the students that she doesn’t support the deal, mainly because there is ‘no way to pay for it’,” the Washington Post reports. In the end, the paper says she “did not say definitively which way she would vote on the deal”.
“But we have come to a point where our Earth is dying, and it is literally a pricey and ambitious plan that is needed to deal with the magnitude of that issue,” replied one 16-year-old student. “So we’re asking you to vote ‘yes’ on the resolution for the Green New Deal because —”
“That resolution will not pass the Senate, and you can take that back to whoever sent you here,” Feinstein interrupted. “I’ve been in the Senate for a quarter of a century, and I know what can pass, and I know what can’t pass.”
The Post says the student delegation “responded by pointing to military funding” and citing the 12-year climate action deadline in last year’s landmark IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways. “Any plan that doesn’t take bold, transformative action is not going to be what we need,” one student said.
“Well you know better than I do, so I think one day you should run for the Senate.” Feinstein responded. “Then you can do it your way.”
The Post notes that the two available videos of the exchange lend themselves to a range of interpretations. The Sunrise Movement initially shared an edited version, then posted the unedited video on its Facebook page. “Some agreed with the Sunrise Movement’s claim that she was short and dismissive of the students,” the Post states. “Others found the negative reaction to her comments as unreasonable, especially after watching the full video.”
During a re-election campaign last fall in which Feinstein, as she reminded her visitors, prevailed over fellow Democrat Kevin De Léon by a margin of nearly a million votes, the six-term senator appealed to youth by opposing the death penalty and defending the state’s marijuana industry, the Post reports. “While discussing the Green New Deal with the students Friday, however, she noted that the plan lacks support from Republicans, who control the Senate. She also discussed her own climate change legislation, which she said rivals the Green New Deal and has a ‘much better chance of passing.’ She offered to provide copies for each child and asked them to review it and let her know if they see issues.”
As well, “toward the end of the longer video, the senator is seen speaking with one of the students about a potential internship opportunity.