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.
In her argument, Olson said she knows of no other instance where people suffering
personal injury at the hands of their government are told to go to
the polls when a constitutional right is being violated
The 21 young plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States will mark their six-year anniversary just days from now. They first petitioned the federal District Court for the District of Oregon on August 12, 2015.
Over the past six years, the Juliana plaintiffs have grown in age, understanding, and stature. The lead plaintiff, Kelsey Juliana, is now 25 years old; Levi Draheim, the youngest, is 14.
Individually and as a group, they’ve now had first-hand experience—perhaps to their chagrin—of the ways of Washington and the federal court system. For the past six years, the case has moved from the trial court to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, onto the US Supreme Court, and back again to the trial court.
The latest effort of the plaintiffs’ attorneys is to get the case back on active status. The recent oral argument to amend their pleadings serves as the jumping-on point of this article. Stay with me a moment as I try to explain Juliana’s latest moves.
The question that keeps coming back to the court like a bad check is whether the plaintiffs have the right to stand before a judge to plead their case. Six years on, and the question of standing has yet to be definitively answered.
We’re not a cheap date; the House is going to do what we have to do.
Jim McGovern (D-MA)
While the Senate fiddles over infrastructure and budget reconciliation legislation, the House burns. Seethes is perhaps a better word. I’ll explain why in a moment. First, I’ll set the stage for that discussion.
The Senate is currently in the process of trying to hammer out two critical climate-related pieces of legislation. The first is all about jobs and updating and repairing roads, bridges, and other essential services, including getting quality internet services to all Americans.
The second is a totally partisan piece of legislation termed budget reconciliation and carries a price tag of $3.5 trillion. Although the focus of this second article in an occasional series on US climate policy is reconciliation, it is impossible to provide a picture of what’s going on without discussing the interplay between the two bills.
URGENCY is the message of today and every day until the US finally has the policies in place
and acted upon that will lead it to a sustainable environment and economy.
The US is fifteen months away from the 2022 midterm elections. If history repeats itself, as it often does, the Democrats will lose their tenuous hold of majority status in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Let’s do the math. The Democrats will go into the 2022 midterm elections with a four-seat maj-ority in the House and a sometimes one-vote majority in the Senate.
Since World War II, a president’s party has lost an average of 26 seats in the House and four in the Senate in midterm elections. Should Republicans take control of either or both chambers of Congress, it would prove a catastrophic loss of opportunity for putting the nation irrevocably on the path to a decarbonized economy.
If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it.
- President Joe Biden
Saturday[i] saw both President Biden and former-President Trump making news lines. The day foreshadowed the slide into the 2022 midterm congressional elections and possibly the 2024 presidential. It’s a present that bodes badly for the president’s climate and society agendas and a future I had hoped would remain in the past.
Trump held what was billed as just the first of his revenge rallies. In the case of The Donald, one hardly needs to ask revenge for what? Trump takes any disagreement with him to be a reason for retribution. Ostensibly he was in Wellington, Ohio supporting his former staffer Max Miller in his bid to oust Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) in next year’s Republican primary.
Not one for subtlety, Trump described Miller’s opponent as a grandstanding RINO, not respected in DC, who voted for the unhinged, unconstitutional, illegal impeachment witch hunt. Gonzalez, who comes from a Cuban-American family, was first elected to Congress in 2019. He played football as an Academic All-American at Ohio State—credentials usually sufficient to guarantee a successful political career in a state that has voted for Republican presidential candidates since 2000.
The three questions Democrats are asking themselves these days are:
For readers in a hurry, the answers in order are no, possibly, and that’s a really good question.
For readers with a bit more time, allow me to elaborate.
Can the Democrats afford not to pass an infrastructure/climate bill before the end of the year?
The running joke in Capital City for the past four and a half years is that every week is infrastructure week. It’s agreed by both Republicans and Democrats that US infrastructure is in woeful condition.
The World Economic Forum ranks US infrastructure 13th overall in the world behind Singapore (1) and countries like South Korea (6), Germany (8), France (9), and the United Kingdom (11). It lists the US as 24th in the transition to renewable energy.
Some things just seem to go together--Bogey and Bacall—for example. There are other things—voting rights legislation and the future of national climate policy—not so much.
It is critical for the climate community to follow closely the federal voting rights law passed by the House and now being considered by the Senate. HR 1/S 1, the For the People Act of 2021 (Act), could prove as pivotal to the future of national climate policy as infrastructure legislation or other accommodative climate measures enacted by the 117th Congress and signed into law by President Biden.
Why voting rights?
There are two places where voting rights legislation impacts climate policy. The first place is at the state level. As reported by the Brennan Center, 14 states have already enacted 22 new laws restricting access to the vote. (See Figure 1) According to the Center, 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through the 18 legislatures still in session. More specifically:
…31 [bills] have passed at least one chamber, while another 30 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote). Overall, lawmakers have introduced at least 389 restrictive bills in 48 states in the 2021 legislative sessions.
Infrastructure Negotiations and the Fate of National Climate Policy—Will There Be a Chance to Make a Second Impression?
Gina, Gina, Gina…didn’t your mother ever tell you that you never get a second chance to make a first impression? Certainly, mine told me, and I’d venture most have been offered such pearls—or something like them—at one time or another.
I’m confident my mother heard the phrase in an ad for a brand of men’s suits. The first of many times she told it to me was just before a meeting with my college’s scholarship committee, when she advised I shave my beard, cut my hair, and put on a suit. But I digress.
The Gina of whom I speak is Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy serves in the White House as Presi-dent Biden’s climate czar; it’ a role for which she is more than qualified, having served in the Obama administration as EPA’s administrator and during the Trump administration as president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
McCarthy gave voice during a recent Politico interview to what many in the climate community have thought but rarely spoke of publicly—that President Biden would accept gutting a central climate provision of the infrastructure bill as part of a bipartisan deal.
In her own words:
While every piece like a clean electricity standard may not end [up] in the final version, we know that it is necessary, we know that the utilities want it, we are going to fight like crazy to make sure that it’s in there. And then we’re going to be open to a range of other investment strategies. (Emphasis added)
The timing of this statement was awful.
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.