Photo: Clint Spaulding (Getty)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the patron saint of lower gas prices, is facing a tough vote this week, as his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell intends to bring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey’s Green New Deal resolution to the floor. In typical Schumer fashion, he is taking this bad situation and making it worse.

The conventional wisdom behind the Senate GOP bringing up the Green New Deal resolution (which was introduced in February) for a vote is simple: to force Democrats to take a vote on it, so the Republicans can hammer them in subsequent elections for voting in lockstep with the dastardly cow-hating, train-loving Maoist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This could be particularly difficult for someone like, say, Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who faces extremely long re-election odds as long as he doesn’t face an alleged pedophile again in 2020.

So Schumer, who has been in Congress for nearly 40 years and the Senate for 20, hatched a brilliant plan: instead of taking a position on the bill, Senate Democrats should all vote “present,” the functional equivalent of shrugging when someone asks what you want. To Schumer’s credit, the Hill reports that Sunrise Movement, one of the main Green New Deal activist groups, backed the plan to have everyone vote present because of McConnell’s transparent attempt to stir divisions in the Democratic caucus.

But already, the plan is going to hell because not everyone who’s actually in the Senate wants to fall in line—and the challenge is coming from the right. Enter Joe Manchin, the ornery West Virginia senator who has made it his life’s mission to ensure that his state’s workers engage in a suicide pact with the coal industry. Per the Hill:

But at least one Democrat is preparing to break ranks. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, said he plans to vote against the measure.

“They can do what they want to do. I’m not a present-type guy,” he told The Hill last month.

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I always had Manchin marked for a past-type guy, myself.

The entire strategy of voting present, as one Republican aide noted to the Hill, falls apart rather quickly once at least one Democrat breaks ranks. But it’s not like Schumer couldn’t have seen this coming. After all, six of the 11 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal resolution are currently running for president.

Given that these people are all running for the nomination of a party whose lefty base has been as fired up as it has been in decades—a base which pays very active attention to how people vote—those candidates now have to choose between already flip-flopping and straddling the party line in the hopes that their explanations of why they didn’t defend the Green New Deal when they had the chance resonate with voters.

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And make no mistake: for the Democratic base, the Green New Deal is an extremely popular idea.

A better solution? Flip it around on McConnell, and let the Senate Dems vote however they want. If they want to vote for the resolution, they should. If they don’t, well, they should do that, too. If they’re in GOP-dominated states like Jones is, it stands to reason they won’t lose much politically. But if they’re in liberal-leaning states and just voting against it because they’d prefer to take a reasonable, centrist, bipartisan tack on climate action which has never once worked, then maybe their voters will finally see them for what they are, and perhaps even choose to primary—on second thought, it makes perfect sense why Chuck Schumer isn’t cool with this idea.