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Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency

Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerA Biden stumble on China? First Black secretary of Senate sworn in Republican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Monday night that President Biden should consider declaring an emergency when it comes to the climate.

"It might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency," Schumer told MSNBC's Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowJuan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP Tim Ryan: Prosecutors reviewing video of Capitol tours given by lawmakers before riot League of Conservation Voters adds racial justice issues to 2020 congressional scorecard MORE.

Schumer appeared to be referencing Biden making a national emergency declaration, with the Senate leader noting that former President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE used it for the border wall.

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"He can do many, many things under the emergency powers ... that he could do without legislation," Schumer added about what authority Biden would have if he used his emergency powers.

"Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which wasn't an emergency. But if there ever was an emergency, climate is one," Schumer added. 

Declaring a national emergency would give Biden more leeway on combating climate change, including being able to direct additional funding.

Schumer's suggestion is what many Republicans feared would happen the next time a Democrat was in the White House after Trump used the emergency declaration to get more funding for the border wall in the face of congressional opposition.

"If today, the national emergency is border security ... tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Watch live: Day 2 at CPAC MORE (R-Fla.) told CNBC in 2019. 

Schumer's push comes as the president has already issued climate-related executive orders including rejoining the Paris climate agreement. The Washington Post reported on Monday night that he'll also impose a moratorium this week on new federal oil and gas leases.

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But Democrats have pledged to make climate change a top priority as they have control of both chambers in Congress and the White House for the first time in roughly a decade. 

Though legislation typically needs 60 votes to clear the Senate, Schumer told MSNBC that Democrats were also studying ways that they could include climate change legislation and parts of Biden's Build Back Better plan under reconciliation. 

The budget tactic allows some spending-related bills to pass the Senate with only a simple majority. But Democrats are limited in how frequently they could use it. 

Schumer noted that the first reconciliation bill was likely to go toward coronavirus relief because Democrats want to move quickly and Biden's $1.9 trillion relief proposal has gotten GOP pushback. 

But Democrats were looking at making as much of Biden's Build Back Better plan as possible — which includes, among other provisions, investments in manufacturing and sustainable infrastructure — fit under the budget rules for a second reconciliation bill.

"There may be things that are reconcilable," Schumer told Maddow about the ability to fit climate proposals under the budget rules. 

Updated at 11:22 p.m.