‘Build Back Better’ Smash a Wall, But Climate Action Can Move Forward

WASHINGTON – A growing number of Democrats in Congress want to get ahead with the climate portion of President BidenThe spending bill has stalled, saying the urgency of a warming planet requires action and they believe it can gather enough votes to overcome Republican opposition.

Faced with the possibility that Democrats could lose control of Congress in the November midterm elections, the party is now looking to salvage what it can from the $2 Better Rebuilding Act, 2 trillion USD. The sweeping climate change and social policy bill passed the House of Representatives but stalled last month when Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat and voted in the Senate, say he opposes it.

But Mr Manchin has suggested he could roll back various climate provisions in the law, prompting some Democrats to say the party should regroup around a climate bill.

“The bottom line is we’re running out of time and the only thing that can get through is a package with votes,” said Senator Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a leading climate action proponent. head in Congress said.

Mr. Biden endorsed the strategy during a news conference on Wednesday, saying he was “confident that we can get pieces, big chunks” of the bill through.

“I talked to some of my colleagues on the Hill,” Biden told reporters. “I think it’s clear that we can get $500 billion in additional support for energy and the environment.”

His comments prompted Democratic lawmakers who had previously pondered that option to talk openly about rallying around it. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, said on Thursday: “I think the climate array offers a way forward.

That could mean repealing many childcare, healthcare and tax overhaul provisions that have been priorities for different parts of the Democratic coalition.

But like Environmentalists say nearly every region of the United States has experienced deadly storms, heat waves, droughts and wildfires made worse by climate change, environmentalists say The school says the window is closing to take action to limit pollution. dangerously warm planet.

“We don’t have another 10 years to wait,” Mr. Markey said. “We should take what Joe Manchin said, take the climate and clean energy provisions in the package that has largely been done and funded, and take any other provisions in any part. other of Build Back Better that have votes, and put them together as a package. ”

Mr. Markey said of the social programs that won’t cut, “that’s going to be the agenda we’re on in 2022 and 2024.”

Republicans, including those who accept the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily the result of burning fossil fuels, express less urgency.

The New York Times asked each of the 50 Republicans in the Senate if he or she supported just climate provisions in the Better Rebuilding Act if they are presented in a separate invoice. No one said they would.

“You will be hard-pressed to find GOP members who will agree with the Democrats’ approval of these priorities,” Senator John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican, said in a statement.

He described the climate provisions as “a far-left agenda” opposed by “every Republican in the Senate”.

Two of the 50 Republicans in the Senate spoke in general terms about how they could support certain climate measures. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says, “I can help to some extent,” while Lisa Murkowski of Alaska says, “I think anything is possible as long as you have a good and good faith attitude when it comes to things. Negotiate here.”

The climate portion of Build Back Better includes about $555 billion that aims to move the US economy away from its 150-year-old dependence on fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources.

Instead of penalties to punish polluters, the bill encourages industries, utilities and individuals to switch from burning oil, gas, and coal for energy and transportation to using more energy. Wind, solar and other forms of energy do not emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant type of energy. of greenhouse gases that are warming the world.

It will provide about $320 billion in tax credits to wind, solar and nuclear power producers and buyers. Electric vehicle buyers will receive a tax credit of up to $12,500. It will expand existing tax credits to reduce costs for owners installing solar panels, geothermal pumps and small wind turbines, including up to 30% of the bill.

The bill also includes $6 billion to make buildings more energy efficient and about another $6 billion for owners to replace gas-fired appliances and furnaces with electric versions. And it provides billions of dollars for the research and development of new technologies for capturing carbon dioxide from the air.

Voters across the political spectrum – including conservative Republicans – strongly support tax credits and rebates for consumers, businesses and homeowners for efficient heating and cooling energy, solar panels, electric vehicles and other zero-emission or low-carbon technologies, according to a September 2021 poll conducted by the climate change communication programs at Yale and George Mason universities.

And many of the clean energy tax credits in Build Back Better have been endorsed by Republican lawmakers in the past and even written by them. Tax credits, some of which have been in law since the 1970s, are typically only renewed for a few years. The pending act will stay in effect for a decade, bringing more certainty to the market, which is designed to spur more investment.

“A lot of the direct benefits from these tax credits have gone to the red states,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of political science and environmental policy at the University of Michigan. “We have seen massive growth in wind and solar production in predominantly Republican states, such as Texas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. And these policies have enjoyed bipartisan support over time. “

When they said they would not vote on an independent climate bill, some Republicans pushed for their own ideas about limiting emissions. “If you’re serious about climate, price carbon,” said Senator Mitt Romney of Utah. Many lawmakers consider passing a carbon dioxide emissions tax to be politically unfeasible.

Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said he likes solutions like supporting technologies that capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it underground. The Rebuilding Better Act includes billions of dollars for research and development on so-called “carbon capture,” a technology that is not used on any commercial scale because it is so expensive.

Mr. Cramer recently joined President Trump’s former national security adviser, HR McMaster, in calling for the United States and Europe to impose a carbon tax on imported goods as part of a “trade and transatlantic climate”.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who often considers himself the “father” of the wind energy production tax credit, said he could support provisions in the bill to support wind and solar energy. heaven but oppose the part that will help produce electricity. more affordable means. That would hurt his state’s ethanol industry, he said.

None of the Republicans surveyed said they felt they were facing a planetary emergency.

“I don’t follow the alarm theory of ‘we’re dead and we’re going to perish,'” Mr. Cramer said.

President Biden wants to significantly reduce the pollution caused by the United States, the country that used to pump the most hot gas on the planet into the atmosphere. He aims to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, roughly the same rate scientists say. The whole world must follow to keep the Earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say catastrophic events will become more frequent.

The average global temperature has increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius.

It would be extremely difficult to achieve Mr. Biden’s goal without clean energy tax credits in the Building Better Back Act, analysts said.

“This is the moment to start or break the climate crisis,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of climate advocacy group Evergreen Action. “It takes tough choices for other parts of Build Back Better to get this to the finish line,” he said, adding that he and other environmental groups have communicated this to the White House and Senate. Chuck Schumer in New York. majority leader.

Schumer did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Democratic leaders have been reluctant to forgo social programs like universal preschool or reduce prescription drug costs because they provide immediate benefits that are felt by American families and will demonstrate demonstrate to voters that the party can deliver on its promises.

Some of the other pieces — health care and prescription drug recommendations — are the most popular part of the package with voters, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist and pollster. tri.

Although the Democrats control the White House and Congress, the party is thwarted in the Senate by rules of procedure, the unified Republican opposition, and the fact that the chamber is split 50-50 with the party. The Democrats and their two independent allies could prevail simply because of the binding powers of Vice President Kamala Harris.

If Democrats try to put a climate bill on the Senate floor for a vote, they’ll need at least 10 Republicans to get over the 60-vote threshold to overcome Republican opposition. peace.

They can pass a vote using a fast-track procedure known as mediation, which allows them to take the legislation to the Senate floor with a simple 51-vote majority. That’s the route Senate leaders have tried to use to push the Build Better Back bill more broadly.

But under Senate rules, the mediation process can only be used once per fiscal year. That’s why Democratic leaders are still trying to use their unique opportunity to pack as much of Mr Biden’s agenda as possible into a single piece of legislation. “They took a bite out of the apple,” said Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy, a nonpartisan policy analysis firm.

When asked why Republicans blocked a procedural move to allow a vote on the climate bill, spokesman Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, pointed to the senator’s remarks. doctor in November on the climate portion of the Build Back Better package. He called it “a wave of taxes and reckless spending that could hit American families and the affordable energy they need to power, heat, and drive their homes.”

Mr. Rabe said that policy appeared to be an accident for Republican efforts to deny Mr. Biden a major legislative victory in an election year. “Even policies that can create opportunities for bipartisanship fall into this partisanship,” he said.

Emily Cochrane contribution report.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/climate/build-back-better-climate-change.html ‘Build Back Better’ Smash a Wall, But Climate Action Can Move Forward

Fry Electronics Team

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