U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a group of San Francisco Bay Area students squared off over climate change in a sometimes tense exchange captured on video and widely shared on social media.
The 15-minute video of the impromptu Friday meeting captures the students and Feinstein debating the merits of the Green New Deal, an ambitious Democrat plan to shift the U.S. economy from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
The students passionately urged the California Democrat to support the legislation. But Feinstein, a 27-year veteran of the Senate, argued that the legislation had no chance of passing the Republican-controlled chamber.
“That resolution will not pass the Senate, and you can take that back to whoever sent you here and tell them,” Feinstein responded after the students insisted the legislation was badly needed. “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.”
Republicans have mocked the Green New Deal as a progressive pipedream that would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase, calling it evidence of the creep of socialism in the Democratic party.
Instead, Feinstein said she supported an alternate plan.
The students are members of Sunrise Movement, an activist group that encourages children to combat climate change.
Sunrise Movement’s Bay Area leader Morissa Zuckerman posted the debate on the group’s Facebook page. A few hours later, edited versions were being shared widely across social media platforms.
Zuckerman said Saturday the group didn’t have an appointment with Feinstein. Zuckerman said the group had earlier sought a meeting with Feinstein, but the senator’s staff said she was unavailable.
It was the students’ decision to call on Feinstein’s San Francisco office on Friday, Zuckerman said .
In the video, Zuckerman says, “If this doesn’t get turned around in 10 years, you’re looking at the faces of the people who are going to be living with the consequences.”
Feinstein countered that she understands the consequences of climate change.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing,” Feinstein said. “You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that.”
Later Friday, Feinstein issued a statement calling the debate a “spirited discussion” and said “I want the children to know they were heard loud and clear.”
Feinstein’s spokesman Adam Russell declined further comment Saturday.