Progressives fear infrastructure's climate plans won't survive Senate

Progressives fear infrastructure's climate plans won't survive Senate
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The White House infrastructure package released last week contains a number of environmental agenda items high on progressive wish lists, but some advocates are concerned those same items could be sacrificed to ensure passage in the 50-50 Senate.

President BidenJoe BidenFour members of Sikh community among victims in Indianapolis shooting Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J On The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes MORE’s $2.25 trillion proposal would create a Civilian Climate Corps, boost spending on sustainability and clean energy and push for universal clean water by replacing all lead pipes in the U.S.

“On the whole, this proposal is a victory for our movement, and a real result of the power we’ve built over the past few years,” Ellen Sciales, press secretary for the Sunrise Movement, told The Hill.


But environmentalists are worried that what they see now might look different as legislation moves through Congress, particularly with a razor-thin majority for Democrats in the Senate. It’s also no guarantee that moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats 'Just say no' just won't work for Senate Republicans MORE (W.Va.) will support all of the climate change provisions.

A recent ruling by the Senate parliamentarian gives Democrats the option of advancing the infrastructure package through what’s known as the budget reconciliation process, which would let them avoid a GOP filibuster so long as they can keep all members of their caucus together.

“That is the fear; we don’t have much control over this aspect. And with reconciliation, a lot of policy gets dropped because of the arcane budget rules,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill.

“I would argue that if you can’t change policy, then dump a ton of money where you can.”

He cited provisions on clean drinking water and electric vehicles as those favored by his organization.


However, Sciales said the Sunrise Movement doesn’t view compromise on these issues as an acceptable option.

“The Biden administration and Senate Democrats must do everything in their power ... to ensure that these progressive agenda items become the law of the land,” she said.

“Moving forward with this package, we need members in the House to push for the strongest version of this infrastructure plan before sending it to the Senate to ensure it does match the scale and scope needed. If they don’t work to pass all of this and more, suffering will only intensify and the costs and consequences will only be higher,” she added.

Sciales also cited inclusion of the House-passed PRO Act, a union-backed bill that strengthens collective bargaining and organizing powers, as essential to retaining job protections for workers affected by the transition to renewable energy.

“The PRO Act is necessary in that green profits go to workers, not corporate executives like Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskNASA picks Elon Musk's SpaceX to build spacecraft for manned moon missions Why does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Hillicon Valley: Intel heads to resume threats hearing scrapped under Trump | New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy | Amazon backs corporate tax hike to pay for infrastructure MORE. We need more good union jobs for workers in the building trades and across the economy that will exist long after we transition off of fossil fuels,” Sciales said.


The measure passed the House last month but faces an uphill struggle in the Senate.

Biden and progressive activists have had a rocky history, with most of them opposing his candidacy during the 2020 Democratic primary in favor of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSirota: Biden has not fulfilled campaign promise of combating union-busting tactics Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE (I-Vt.) or Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPoll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Democrats reintroduce bill to block US from using nuclear weapons first MORE (D-Mass.).

But many have been pleasantly surprised by some of Biden’s actions since taking office. The next major test of that relationship will be the president’s infrastructure package and whether the White House will fight to keep key environmental provisions or whether they’ll be sacrificed to ensure passage.

Progressive activists and lobbyists are bracing for the possibility that a final infrastructure package might jettison some of those provisions, much like the $15 minimum wage provision that was stripped from Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The White House and congressional Democrats have not said definitively if they plan to go the budget reconciliation route with infrastructure, but both have indicated that they’re willing to go it alone without Republicans if need be.

Ben Beachy of the Sierra Club pointed to the broad popularity of many of the bill’s environmental provisions to say they should not be sacrificed for the sake of bipartisanship, especially amid criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE (R-Ky.).

“That supermajority support shows that regardless of what Mitch McConnell says, the nation supports an economic renewal plan that is as big and interconnected as the crises we face,” Beachy said.

“Any quest for bipartisanship cannot come at the expense of good jobs, greater equity.”