Dozens of Democrats call for spending bill to pass 'climate test'

Dozens of Democrats call for spending bill to pass 'climate test'
© Greg Nash

More than 60 congressional Democrats are calling for the party's massive spending bill, which is still under negotiation, to pass a “climate test” with strong emissions reductions ahead of a major global climate conference in Scotland.

“Before COP26, it is critical to secure agreement from all relevant parties on a Build Back Better deal that meets the ‘climate test’ by achieving the scientifically-necessary emissions reduction goal while creating good union jobs and advancing environmental, racial, and economic justice,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE that was led by Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes MORE (Mass.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenReal relief from high gas prices Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE (Md.) and Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal War of words escalates in House Mace chief of staff steps down during turbulent week MORE (Minn.).

Their climate test includes delivering “measurable emissions reductions," while the letter specifically raised concerns about the potential exclusion of a Clean Electricity Performance Program — which would have sought to shift the country’s electric production to mostly clean energy sources through a mix of grants and fines on power providers. 

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The lawmakers said that if this program is not included in the final deal, “we will need your unwavering support for significant additional investments in climate priorities to close the resulting emissions gap.”

They also called for the inclusion of several programs — many of which were previously proposed as part of the deal, including expanding access to “union-built” electric vehicles, creating a conservation jobs program called the Civilian Climate Corps and getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies. 

The letter comes amid reports that Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE’s (D-W.Va) opposition to the clean electricity program is expected to result in its exclusion from Democrats’ spending bill. With the Senate's 50-50 split, Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote to get their bill across the finish line. 

In the wake of that news, many Democrats have pledged to look for alternatives and continue to bolster climate action. 

Biden, during a CNN town hall on Thursday night, said that nothing had been formally agreed to, but if the electricity program is out, he said he’ll look for other ways to make the climate investment. 

“The negotiation is….if we don't do it in terms of the electric grid piece, what we'll do is give me that $150 billion. I’m going to add it to be able to do other things that allow me to do things that don't directly affect the electric grid in the way that there's a penalty but allow me to spend the money to set new technologies in place,” he said, according to a transcript of the event. 

There is pressure on Washington to get the deal done ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where countries will negotiate the future of climate action, in order to show that the U.S. is serious about its own commitments.