Climate emerges as infrastructure sticking point
Climate change is emerging as a sticking point in infrastructure negotiations, as proposals from President Biden and Republicans remain disparate on actions to address the warming planet.
Following additional negotiations last week, during which Republicans upped their offer by $50 billion, the White House said it still did not go far enough on climate change.
Meanwhile, climate hawks are expressing fear that climate action could fall to the wayside in a push to get bipartisan legislation across the finish line.
On Friday, after a meeting between Biden and Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Capito’s counteroffer “did not meet [Biden’s] objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis, and create new jobs.”
Psaki said during a press briefing Monday that her statement referenced “investment in areas like EV [electric vehicle] buses and EV charging stations and some of the components that are essential to investing in industries of the future and ensuring that we’re creating millions of jobs while also doing it in a way that protects our climate.”
But asked whether those were “must-haves,” Psaki said, “I’m not outlining must-haves here. I’m outlining what the president would like to see more of in a piece of legislation.”
While neither Democrats nor Republicans gave specifics on what was discussed, where each side’s public proposals fall on climate shows two very different visions for the extent and scope of climate change in the infrastructure package.
Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for spending $174 billion to boost electric vehicles, investing $213 billion in buildings, including for energy-efficient upgrades and setting a clean electrify standard that would require power providers to get all their energy from clean sources by 2035.
He recently proposed a counteroffer that held firm on many climate provisions but did say he was prepared to “take off the table the manufacturing, research and development (R&D) and innovation elements.”
Late last month, Republicans pitched $4 billion in spending on electric vehicles and $14 billion on resilience, but these numbers are much smaller than what the Biden administration is putting forward.
At the same time, climate advocates are expressing discontent with the process.
In a Twitter thread on Monday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that he was becoming “anxious” about climate legislation.
He said that “climate has fallen out of the infrastructure discussion” and that he doesn’t “see the preparatory work for a close Senate climate vote taking place in the administration.”
A spokesperson for the senator declined to elaborate, while the White House disputed this characterization.
And the progressive Sunrise Movement last week demonstrated outside the presidential residence, attempting to get Biden to rethink his decision to pursue bipartisan negotiations.
“He’s wasting time right now and negotiating with a party that isn’t following the science on climate change,” Sunrise spokesperson Ellen Sciales told The Hill.
“While it’s good to hear from the president that he values climate, his action doesn’t show us that he actually holds true to that commitment,” Sciales said, adding the infrastructure package itself isn’t sufficient.