President Joe Biden’s $ 2.25 trillion infrastructure package offered in March has not gone big enough to deal with the scale of the climate crisis. Now it looks like we might not even see these undersized proposals reveal themselves.
This is terrible news because, with a slim majority in the Senate, Democrats may have a tight window of time to pass meaningful climate legislation. The disastrous process is reminiscent of the Obama administration’s missteps.
The White House seems more interested in seeking bipartisan support for the bill than in avoiding climate degradation. Last month, Biden offered to shave over half a trillion dollars from his original proposal to bring Republicans on board. Then last week he came up with a even wider cut that would bring the total price down to a much smaller trillion dollars.
“Democrats, for whatever reason, start with extremely modest proposals, then try to reduce them to almost trivial proposals as they try to negotiate,” said Mark Paul, an economist at the New College of Florida who focuses on the weather. .
Despite these cuts, the Republicans still have not bite: Tuesday, bipartite negotiations on infrastructure collapsed due to irreconcilable differences.
Yet Biden is still courting support from bad faith actors for the infrastructure bill. Concrete example: his national climate advisor, Gina McCarthy launched the plan at American Petroleum Institute, the main lobby group for the fossil fuel industry, at the White House on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the administration is preparing climate advocates for major losses in the bill, including the loss the clean electricity standard, which was a characteristic climate proposition. But he wants us not to worry. “I just don’t want people to think that a loss of something, or a reduction in cost, is going to be the end of the discussion,” McCarthy says Politico. (She added that Biden “isn’t trying to negotiate a small amount of investment that won’t be consistent with his vision of what we need to do now, that’s going to keep our country strong.” Strong language!)
The message in a low voice doesn’t really inspire confidence. The champions of the Green New Deal as the representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal archer, and Senator Ed Markey have indicated they will not vote for the watered-down proposal, which means the administration is not just asking for Republican votes, but is also losing support in his own party. These climate advocates are right to draw that line, and recent history shows us why.
“We have a Republican Party that has no interest in serving the country but just wants to obstruct every corner, not to negotiate. I don’t know why Biden didn’t learn from the Obama years, ”Paul said. “He seems determined to repeat Obama’s mistakes.”
In the election campaign, President Barack Obama promised take on the climate crisis – or global warming, as it was more often called at the time — seriously by reducing pollution and producing clean energy to replace oil. But when he took office in 2009, his administration continually dismissed the issue, focusing instead on problems like health care and financial reform. (It’s also not as if Obama won perfect policy on the issues he focused on – he made massive compromises on both issues, get rid of the public option for health care and bail out the banks which caused the 2008 subprime crisis).
In doing so, Obama has put a key piece of climate legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (also known as the Waxman-Markey for the two representatives who sponsored it), on the back burner. The bill, which focused on a cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gas emissions, was the Democrats’ big climate proposal at the time. He wasn’t exactly a radical bill, and it was designed in a bipartisan spirit, with the backing of oil companies such as Shell and BP.
Yet without Obama’s energy, supporters of the bill could not gain enough support to pass it. The legislation walked through the house in June 2009, but without presidential support, the enthusiasm for the bill died away. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid never even brought it to the Senate for a vote.
“It is precisely because Obama has never put his political capital behind climate change that we have seen the legislation never take off,” said Paul.
Obama has also not had the opportunity to support a big climate bill. In the following midterm elections, Republicans took control of the house. Democrats would not regain control of both houses of Congress until more than a decade later.
Now, with Democrats once again holding both Houses of Congress and the White House, Biden could face the same fate. If a single Democrat dies, changes parties, or becomes too sick to work, the party will lose its majority in the Senate. Even if that doesn’t happen, the upcoming midterm elections could be problematic.
“The chances of Democrats taking Senate seats in the next election cycle are extraordinarily slim, so I think the Biden administration has an obligation to work with Congress to push green infrastructure spending through the process. reconciliation now “, Paul said, referring to a obscure legislative process which allows a simple majority of the Senate to pass spending bills.
Passing a bill through reconciliation would still require buy-in from conservative Democrats, including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who sent mixed signals on its willingness to support major climate spending initiatives. But Paul says it might be possible to gain Manchin’s support, for example by creating climate policies that would benefit Manchin voters.
“We must (…) focus on the creation of green jobs and in particular on the creation of jobs in swing neighborhoods, generating jobs and neighborhoods which are still in economic crisis and in economic decline”, he declared. “The time is now.”