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Mitch McConnell and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photos: Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants a Green New Deal fight on his terms, and right now, he's getting it.

Driving the news: "I've noted with great interest the Green New Deal. And we're going to be voting on that in the Senate," McConnell said on Capitol Hill yesterday.

ICYMI: The GND resolution unveiled last week is designed essentially as a message and policy down payment.

  • It's a sweeping emissions and jobs template that would later be transformed into specifics as backers hope for a political window on climate to open after 2020.

Why it matters: It's suddenly tricky for Democrats, especially the half-dozen senators running for president who co-sponsored the resolution.

  • That's thanks in no small part to the wide-ranging FAQ that House sponsor Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office posted and then took down, with her chief of staff calling it a draft released in error.
  • It contained all kinds of things that aren't found in the underlying resolution, such as the idea of economic security for those "unwilling to work" and building enough high-speed rail so that air travel isn't necessary.
  • It also steered the policy away from nuclear power and industrial carbon capture, unlike the resolution that's agnostic on particular low-carbon options.

The result was to hand ammo to Republicans and leave Senate Democrats on the defensive, even though those points are not in what they sponsored.

Between the lines: Even without the FAQ, it's not clear where the majority of Senate Democrats come down on the GND that Sen. Ed Markey introduced with 11 co-sponsors and Republicans are attacking.

  • "By sanctioning a vote, McConnell appears to be betting that the resolution will prove too radical for a good number of Democrats, let alone any Republicans," HuffPost notes.
  • Republicans are attacking the GND as a radical and economically damaging dream, with Sen. John Barrasso calling it a "socialist manifesto that lays out a laundry list of government giveaways."
  • Democrat are responding by bashing Republicans' lack of a climate plan, although it's unknown where the majority of Senate Democrats stand on the GND itself, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who hasn't weighed in on the GND resolution led by Sen. Ed Markey.
  • Markey's office said McConnell is trying to "sabotage" the resolution by bringing it up without hearings or a "true national debate."

The intrigue: Here's what a former senior Obama administration official who worked on energy and asked to remain anonymous tells me about the FAQ:

"It was a monumental screw up. It is putting the potential for a robust climate action at risk. ... The resolution itself did a great job of avoiding these controversies and finding a way to appeal to a broad spectrum of Democrats. But because the FAQs drove the narrative, McConnell sees it as a way to hurt vulnerable Democrats and embarrass the 2020 field."

What's next: It's not exactly clear what McConnell will bring up or when, and whether Democrats will use Senate procedure to force Republicans to vote on anything related (such as the reality of human-caused warming and its effects).

The big question: How will Democrats approach the vote, especially the members running for president.

  • Greg Carlock of the progressive think tank Data for Progress says he agrees Congress should go on record about bold action, but that it should happen via "due legislative process that allows for transparent debate and compromise."
  • "I would not fault members and even cosponsors of the resolution [who] abstain from a vote, signaling they aren't here to play politics but to work out real solutions," he tells Axios.

My thought bubble: McConnell would not be doing this unless he saw a political opening. But it's far too early to know whether the GND is ultimately a political winner or loser for Democrats.

  • In the short term, let's see what the first waves of polling after the plan's release.
  • Longer term, let's watch how the public responds to the big ideas that are in the resolution as the 2020 cycle unfolds.
  • There's plenty of examples of disconnects between what's publicly popular and what has been long been politically unviable in Washington, such as "Medicare for All."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs "dull" DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker