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2020 candidate Buttigieg backs Green New Deal

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By Allan Smith  with NBC News Politics
Image: Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Wash
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington on Jan. 24, 2019.   -   Copyright  Jose Luis Magana AP file

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 presidential candidate, said Sunday that a "Green New Deal" resolution being pushed by lawmakers of his party is "the right beginning" for a broad plan to combat climate change.

"This is a national emergency," Buttigieg said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think the elegance from a policy perspective of the concept of the Green New Deal is it matches a sense of urgency about that problem of climate change with a sense of opportunity around what the solutions might represent."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts have introduced a resolution on the Green New Deal calling for a complete transition to renewable energy by 2030, seeking to "achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers."

The measure calls for a massive 10-year infrastructure plan and large spending increase, but has faced criticism over some of its proposals and for not addressing how the plan would be paid for.

The plan was met with backlash on the right, particularly over draft language sent to news outlets that included provisions like cutting down on air travel and providing economic security to people who are "unable or unwilling to work."

Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman legislator, tweeted Sunday that the resolution, which would not carry the force of law if passed, was only meant to define the scope of the proposal.

She said in a Thursday news conference announcing the resolution, which is backed by prominent 2020 presidential contenders and numerous senators and House members, that lawmakers "must be as ambitious and innovative in our solution [to climate change] as possible."

Buttigieg told CNN on Sunday that conservative bashing of "socialism" won't work the same way it has in the past.

"If you grew up during that Cold War period, then you saw a time in politics when the word socialism could be used to end an argument," he said, adding, "You can no longer simply kill off a line of discussion about a policy by saying that it's socialist."

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 30, 2019.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 30, 2019.Andrew Harnik

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on the same program that the proposal was "absolutely realistic" and that lawmakers need to "set our sights high" to combat climate change. He compared the situation to former President John F. Kennedy's mission to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, which was considered an unrealistic goal at the time.

"If we don't command this country to think big about saving our nation and our world from destruction, then I don't think we're going to get close to meeting the mark," he said.