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" I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most
important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done."
- President Joe Biden
The question everyone in Capital City is asking these days is — has President Biden over-promised and under-delivered? Part of me simply wants to answer the question with another — what politician hasn’t?
As answering one question with another isn’t overly helpful, in this case, I’ll attempt to provide the political context in which US climate policy will be debated and possibly passed over the next six to eight months. After which, you may draw your own conclusions.
It’s clear now that the comprehensive national climate policy many expected to accompany Biden’s move into the White House and the Democrats’ control of Congress is not going according to Hoyle. In truth, very little these days is following along pre-trod paths — leaving us to poke along untried avenues in pursuit of new possibilities.
Joe Manchin is a lying liar who lies.
-- Jennifer Taub[i]
I dislike making predictions in January about what to expect in October. Although I have my suspicions about what’s lurking out there and getting ready to pounce, the value of year-ahead prognostication is mostly entertainment.
Sadly, I’ve lost my sense of humor when it comes to what We the People are doing to the planet and how it bodes badly for current and future generations. However, certain times and events demand to be discussed ahead of their potential.
If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. However, if I’m right and it moves you to action, the only downside would be…um...give me a minute?
Actually, there is no downside. So, with this understanding, I’ll continue.
My first prediction of 2022 is that West Virginia will have an outsized impact on national climate policy in the current climate year (CCY)—and not in a good way.
The Mountain State’s senior senator, Joe Manchin (D), has single-handedly stopped President Biden’s proposed climate action plan in its tracks—along with voting rights, Medicare reform, and securing a safety net under the least fortunate of us.
Climate change and Biden’s response to it played prominently in his successful presidential campaign. As a candidate, he reached out to leading progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ocasio-Cortez and moderates like John Kerry. His charge to them was to devise a strategy equal to the task of decarbonizing the US economy.
The Manchin saga continues. In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the aftermath of Manchin's abrupt announcement on Fox Sunday News a week before Christmas that he would not be voting in favor of President Biden's Build Back Better act (BBB)—or what was left of it. He'd already whacked away at the original $3.5 trillion—reducing it by half.
The announcement unleashed a torrent of condemnation from congressional Democrats and some White House staff. Things have calmed. Attention is now being directed towards the possibility of a smaller and more focused package. Think of it as going from BBB to bbb.
Biden and the Democrats have a lot riding on the Build Back Better act. Eighty percent of the President's once-in-a-generation investments in climate, healthcare, jobs training, child care, universal pre-kindergarten, etc., are in the one bill.
There's a lot of anger towards Manchin that's unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. Progressive Democrats feel betrayed after agreeing to deal separately with the bipartisan infrastructure and BBB bills.
“We were close,” Senator Tina Smith (D-MN)
There’s a jolly old soul in West Virginia who’s laughing his a** off today. Who is this laugh-master? Why it’s Old King Coal, of course; and, he just got off the phone with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
On the call, West Virginia’s senior Senator told the old man he would be announcing his opposition to President Biden’s Build Back Better Act (BBB), otherwise known as budget reconciliation. To add icing to the cake, Manchin thought he would do it a few days before Christmas on FOX Sunday News but only after sending an intern over to the White House less than 30 minutes before he was to go on informing the President of his decision.
The news ripped through Capitol City, registering 11 out of 10 on the political Richter scale. Although it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, the Democratic politics of it all do nothing even to hint at the Democrats’ capacity to keep their majorities in Congress. Could this be the reason 22 House Democrats have announced their retirements?
Photo: C-SPAN screengrab House Passes the Build Back Better Act (budget reconciliation). Democrats are on the left in this image, the Republicans to the left.
Well, it finally happened. An infrastructure bill has found its way onto a president’s desk for signing. Affectionately called the BIF in the halls of Congress and along the K Street corridor where the cognoscenti congregate, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework was truly that—bipartisan.
The $1.2 trillion bill was passed overwhelmingly in the Senate. The vote was 69 yeas and 30 nays. If that wasn’t proof enough of bipartisanship, there’s the House vote to consider.
After months of squabbles within the Democratic ranks, the BIF passed by a vote of 226 to 206. The kicker in this is it passed thanks to the 13 House Republicans who dared cross the aisle—negating the “no” votes of the six progressive Democrats who voted against it with enough left over to win the day.
Republicans in both chambers willing to work with the Democrats to get something done are risking reprisals from former President Trump and a hit-squad of some ultra-Trumpers, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Both Green and Trump have pledged to primary the 13.
Shortly after the vote, Greene tweeted:
These are the 13 “Republicans” who handed over their voting cards to Nancy Pelosi to pass Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America via so-called infrastructure.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.
For the first Earth Day in 1970, the famed illustrator Walt Kelly paraphrased Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry when his Pogo character looked across a field of debris and uttered the now iconic phrase. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Pogo’s words ring as true today as they did fifty years ago. Pardon my French, but--why?
How is it when the scientific evidence is clear, and the technologies needed to respond to global warming are in hand that the US and every other nation on Earth are in the same pickle as Pogo and Porkypine 51 years later?
More to the point--who’s responsible for this and what can be done about it? Spoiler alert—you may not like the answer.
What’s being talked about on Capitol Hill is infrastructure and President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. What’s currently being built, however, are ramparts in anticipation of the 2022 and 2024 federal election battles that I am confident will be “take no prisoners” affairs.
The brewing battles will not just be cross-aisle affairs. The Democratic left appears to be fixing to fight both Republicans and moderate Democrats for control of the nation’s policy agenda.
For a group that has shown remarkable restraint and support for House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and President Biden, it seems an odd time for the progressives to be digging in for a fight—let alone a one with members of their own caucus. So, why now?
It’s widely accepted that President Biden has an ever-shrinking window of opportunity to make his mark on the presidency. He’s promised generational change. he and the Democrats have very little to show for their efforts.
The memories of lawmakers and voters are notoriously short and narrow. It should come as no surprise then that the eternal question asked of all lawmakers is carved in stone above their entrance to the Capitol--WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Koan: a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon
ultimate dependence on reason and force them to gain sudden intuitive enlightenment.
Had someone asked me a year ago what leadership characteristics Donald Trump and Joe Biden would share as president, I would have been at a complete loss to think of even one—other than old, like me.
Perhaps not as pure an example of a koan as the sound of one hand clapping, the Trump/Biden question has assisted me to abandon dependence on reason and gain at least something like sudden enlightenment. I’m unsure whether the greater truth(s) I’ve discovered is about the two men, the office of president, or myself. I expect it’s a jumble of all three.
No matter your measure, these have not been good weeks for President Biden. The most recent opinion polls[i] peg his approval slipping to around 43 percent with a disapproval rating of 51 percent. It is the first time that his unfavorable rating has ended on top.
We must not squander our Congressional Democratic Majorities and jeopardize
the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change….
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives
The closing 100 days of 2021 will be looked back on as among the most critical in the environmental history of the United States—rivaled only by those in the 1970s when the cornerstones of today’s environmental protections were laid.[i]
Whether today’s policymakers will be deserving of applause or derision depends upon the outcomes in four highly partisan battles now taking place over the: $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill; $3.5 trillion budget resolution and the associated package of spending programs termed budget reconciliation; and raising the debt limit on the nation’s credit card.
Even before President Biden’s missteps in Afghanistan, the passage of his sweeping plan to confront climate change head-on was in doubt. Images of Afghanis desperately chasing airplanes down the tarmac in an attempt to flee Taliban rule are emboldening Republican politicians to oppose all parts of the Democrats’ domestic agenda in anticipation of their retaking one or both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.