Progressives yesterday stepped up a campaign to pressure the White House to pass climate legislation, with several Democrats signaling they would not vote for an infrastructure bill in the absence of important provisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Talks entered a new phase on Capitol Hill after President Biden this week abandoned negotiations with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.) and moved on to a bipartisan group of lawmakers crafting their own proposal for infrastructure.
But any deal with Republicans, including the bipartisan negotiating group, is unlikely to include the kind of sweeping climate change Biden spelled out in his original $ 2.2 trillion US jobs plan.
The progressive line in the sand could complicate these conversations further and remind the White House that Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) is not the only decisive 50-50 Senate vote.
“If you want to pass an infrastructure plan, there aren’t a lot of Republicans around the table, so you’ll need every Democratic vote to pass an infrastructure plan,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (DN .M.) Said yesterday during a virtual event with Climate Power. “And I think there is little appetite in the Democratic caucus for an infrastructure plan that ignores the biggest crisis, the most existential crisis we face.”
Heinrich later tweeted that “an infrastructure package that goes light on climate and clean energy should not count on every Democratic vote”.
The line was amplified yesterday on social networks by prominent lawmakers, including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) And Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.).
Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Free an even more striking version of the warning: “No climate, no deal.” Last night he doubled his stake even more.
It was a sign that many Democrats see an infrastructure bill as the only game in town to tackle climate change, with credits and the mid-season season looming on the horizon.
“I’m still very anxious, and I’m going to stay very anxious until we have a solid 1.5 degree bill and a path to the passage,” Whitehouse told reporters yesterday.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who is part of the bipartisan negotiating group, appeared to confirm progressives’ fears about the constraints of a bipartisan infrastructure package, in particular that it would not be able to meet ambitious environmental requirements and far-reaching political reforms they want.
“The Democrats’ agenda on climate change is probably something they’ll pursue, by and large, outside of an infrastructure bill,” Romney said.
Democratic leaders have also raised the possibility, and it remains to be seen whether a bipartisan bill could accompany partisan legislation containing parts of Biden’s proposal that Republicans do not support.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said this week that Congress could pass a bipartisan measure and a separate Democratic package through a budget reconciliation, which allows some bills to bypass systematic obstruction (Daily E&E, June 9).
But Romney said the bipartisan proposal would include “a number of articles related to climate change.”
“One is related to nuclear power, another to hydrogen, another to direct capture from air, another to CO2 pipelines,” Romney told reporters. “So all of these things have to do with climate change.”
For progressives and climate hawks, this is unlikely to be enough. Bennet said yesterday that a clean electricity standard is an “extremely important” part of a potential infrastructure bill, and Democrats in Congress have pushed for spending on electric vehicles and transmission that are going well beyond what Republicans were willing to offer.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy also ruffled feathers this week when she admitted in an interview with POLITICO that some of Biden’s climate proposals – like the clean electricity standard – could drop talks over infrastructure.
Whitehouse said he spoke to people in the administration on Tuesday, but did not detail the conversation or indicate who was on the phone, saying only “they were very helpful as always” .
He also said that despite his climate concerns, he was not concerned about progressive give-and-take in negotiations and that he would withhold judgment until a bill was available for consideration.
“It’s probably wise not to get too excited about alleged elements of an untrained bill,” Whitehouse told reporters. “We have some work to do to prepare a real invoice, and at the end of the day that will be the litmus test.”
Bennet said he was ultimately confident “that we will pass a major infrastructure bill with a strong climate component outside the US Senate.”
“In fact, I think it’s the only infrastructure bill we can pass through the Senate,” Bennet said during the event with Climate Power.
‘Put the probes’
Progressive angst comes after a Tuesday night meeting of the bipartisan infrastructure group, but it’s still unclear when a proposal might emerge.
“We are testing and getting more information from our colleagues on both sides,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said yesterday, adding that the group had yet to finalize a high-level spending figure.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Who spoke with Biden by phone about the effort earlier this week, said it was a work in progress. He described the upcoming proposal as a framework rather than legislative language.
“We have a first type of draft, then you present it to a larger audience and see what they think about it,” he told reporters. “It must be acceptable for both conferences if you want to get 60 votes.”
Cassidy declined to comment on whether the group plans to index the federal gasoline tax to inflation to help pay for its plan, as Republicans proposed at the last Congress to pay for transportation programs. area (Daily E&E, February 14, 2020).
He also declined to say whether the bipartisan group sought to reuse COVID-19 relief funds as payment, a sticking point in talks between Biden and Capito that collapsed this week.
The White House has also opposed the GOP’s proposals to pay for infrastructure through user fees, which poses an additional obstacle to indexing the gasoline tax.
But Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the senior finance committee member who was part of the GOP’s failed negotiations with Biden, said yesterday that the White House may have been open to some of the proposals. if a broader agreement had materialized. .
“We didn’t get close enough to get a deal done, obviously, but we identified a number of different options, which I think if we could have come close to how many actual spending might have gone. “he told E&E. News yesterday.
However, Crapo added that the two sides were “still distant” on payments and overall spending levels, not to mention the scope of the package.
Portman suggested yesterday that the next bipartisan proposal would also respect “traditional” notions of infrastructure, but he also signaled his support for electric vehicle infrastructure – a flashpoint in previous discussions.
“The charging station infrastructure is infrastructure,” he said. “But giving businesses $ 100 billion in rebates is not infrastructure.”
Republicans pilloried the $ 174 billion for electric vehicles included in Biden’s $ 2.2 trillion U.S. employment plan as unnecessary, but then counter-offered $ 4 billion for vehicle infrastructure electric.
Meanwhile, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus – which includes 58 members split evenly between the two sides – is proposing $ 25 billion for EV infrastructure and electric buses as part of a new proposal. $ 1.25 trillion infrastructure.
The eight-year plan includes $ 761 billion in new spending, another point of contention in the failed Biden-Capito talks, with the White House saying the GOP’s latest counter-offer was only a $ 257 billion increase dollars compared to what would be spent anyway.
Problem Solvers’ plan, which does not include a payment, would spend $ 582 billion on roads, bridges and safety; $ 155 billion for public transit; $ 120 billion for freight and passenger rail transport; $ 26 billion for ports; $ 45 billion for resilience efforts; $ 74 billion for water projects, including storage in the West; and $ 71 billion for clean energy.