Some Democrats push to save climate plan in Biden spending program


A group of Congressional Democrats on Tuesday called for preserving the climate parts of President Joe Biden‘s domestic spending bill as Democrats in the US Senate rewrite the measure.

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Tina Smith of Minnesota and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, as well as Representatives Kathy Castor of Florida and Donald McEachin of Virginia, said during a press call that the climate crisis demanded action. The call was organized by the environmental advocacy group League of Conservation Voters.

Democrats have suggested that parts of the bill known as Build Back Better that deal with climate should be given priority as the Senate reworks the measure passed by the House amid internal disagreements.

“We are in a code red moment for the climate,” said Castor, chair of the House special committee on the climate crisis. “Now is the time for us to deliver. We cannot let it pass.

When asked if a measure would still be worth it if it took away social programs like an expanded child tax credit but included climate spending, Smith said Democrats need to do what they can.

“We have to find a package that got the votes of 50 senators,” she said. “Everyone on this call strongly supports the child tax credit, but we need to figure out what [can get] support for 50 people.

Only one Democratic opponent, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, appeared to condemn the $ 1.85 trillion spending bill last month, in part because of his opposition to an extension of the tax credit for children. The expansion, adopted in 2021 as part of a stimulus package, expired at the end of the year.

Manchin said during an appearance on Fox News that he was “a no” on the bill. With no Republicans voting for the legislation, Democrats need all of their members to unite around it.

The version of the bill passed by the House would provide $ 550 billion in climate-related spending, including $ 320 billion in new and extended tax credits for clean energy and a consumer tax credit for clean energy. electric vehicles.

It would also create a new climate conservation corps program to boost entry-level jobs in conservation and climate resilience work and make changes to federal oil and gas policy.

As negotiations continue between the White House, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Schatz said senators could not yet say what climatic provisions would be part of a reworked bill.

“We’re starting to come up with a package that can include over 50 votes,” Schatz said on the call.

“Whether the package as we currently envision it will pass exactly as is, I think it remains to be seen. “

Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday that he had not been involved in the negotiations since appearing on Fox News.

Schatz declined to present a timeline for a vote, but said Democrats would organize one when they garnered enough support to pass the bill.

Manchin said the climate provisions of the proposal could still gain his support. He told reporters on Tuesday that a stand-alone bill with the climate provisions of Build Back Better could be within reach, although he has not discussed the larger bill with the White House since his declaration. .

Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat who, like Manchin, often disagrees with her party leadership, “only supported the climate provisions” in the spending bill, said Schatz.

Smith said she agreed.

In an apparent reference to Manchin and Sinema, Heinrich said there was “more consensus, including with some of our more difficult colleagues,” on the climate provisions than on other parts of the bill.

Extreme weather conditions motivate

The effects of the climate are already apparent, underscoring the need for legislative action, Democrats said on the call.

Hickenlooper said the recent Marshall Fire in Colorado and other destructive wildfires in 2021 showed why tackling the climate is so urgent.

“We are faced with having to go through this over and over again across the country,” Hickenlooper said. “And it’s ludicrous that we’re ever willing to shy away from what is scientific truth … and turn away and subject towns and villages across the country to the same agony that the Marshall Fire took on this vacation.”

Heinrich said dying poplars and a drought-stricken Rio Grande in his home state are other examples.

Rising sea levels and hurricanes threaten coastal communities, including homes, livelihoods and military assets in Virginia, McEachin said. Bad weather and environmental damage hit low-income and minority communities hardest, he said.

“These vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by climate change and long-standing environmental injustices,” he said.

Schatz said Democrats were confident they would pass climate legislation because they saw it as urgent.

“All options are on the table because of our collective determination,” he said. “We’re going to get there, through thick and thin. And right now we have hell and high water.


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