Biden holds firm on climate provisions in infrastructure counterproposal
President Biden is holding firm on energy and climate provisions in the White House infrastructure proposal but has expressed a willingness to cut some research and development funds, according to a memo to Senate Environment Committee ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) obtained by The Hill.
In the memo, which followed a Tuesday meeting between Biden and Capito, Biden wrote that he was “prepared to take off the table the manufacturing, research and development (R&D) and innovation elements of his Jobs Plan” and seek to pass them in separate legislation.
However, the memo lists several environmental and energy aspects of the plan where Biden said Capito’s counterproposal falls short, including investments in resilience against the effects of climate change.
“The President’s plan invests in hardening our transportation and other physical infrastructure, as well as in building natural systems that protect our communities during extreme weather events,” the memo states.
It further highlights what it said were environmental issues Capito’s proposal eschews entirely, including reclamation and restoration of Superfund sites and abandoned mines and oil and gas wells. It also includes the White House plan’s energy sector investments in this category.
The memo goes on to reaffirm Biden’s commitment to paying for the plan through an increase in the corporate tax rate. It also reiterates the administration’s opposition to an increase in the gasoline tax or a miles-traveled user fee, saying such an increase would violate the president’s pledge not to increase taxes on Americans making under $400,000. The Hill has reached out to Capito’s office to clarify whether the senator raised the prospect of such a fee or increase in the meeting.
Although Biden holds firm on most of the White House’s environmental proposals in the memo, it was met with criticism from the progressive wing of the party, which has sought to pressure him on green issues in particular.
“Republicans in Congress are proving that the well-being of our families is a non-priority by failing to offer a proposal that matches the magnitude of the multiple crises of our time, and now President Biden is moving in their direction,” Kaniela Ing, Climate Justice Campaign director of People’s Action, said in a statement Friday. “If the President continues down this path, how will he justify his choices to the workers, caregivers, climate refugees, and so many other members of our communities who need support to survive?”
“Time and again, Republican leadership has proved they are only capable of negotiating in bad faith,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “If they’re incapable of agreeing that we must create a commission to investigate the insurrection on January 6th, it is impossible to believe they are to be trusted in crafting an infrastructure package on the size and scale necessary to address our nation’s crises.”
In a statement Friday afternoon, Capito’s office did not specifically address the climate aspects of the respective proposals, but said “the White House came back with a counteroffer that is well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support.”
“There continue to be vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it,” a spokesperson for Capito’s office said. “Based on today’s meeting, the groups seem further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they were after one meeting with President Biden.”
Morgan Chalfant contributed.