Progressive members of Congress on Wednesday signaled they would be willing to withhold their votes from any infrastructure package that skimps on climate action after one of President Joe Biden’s top advisers suggested that key green energy proposals could be excluded from an eventual bill.
“An infrastructure package that goes light on climate and clean energy should not count on every Democratic vote,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a Green New Deal supporter, tweeted in response to National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy’s suggestion Tuesday that climate policies proposed in Biden’s original American Jobs Plan—such as a clean electricity standard—could be left on the cutting room floor as the president seeks a compromise deal with a bipartisan group of senators.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the lead House sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, echoed Heinrich, declaring, “[Republican Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers are not worth setting the planet on fire for.”
“I know some Dems may disagree with me,” Ocasio-Cortez added in an apparent jab at Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the bipartisan group that Biden turned to after cutting off infrastructure negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Tuesday.
As CNBC reported earlier this week, a dark money group backed by billionaire oil mogul Charles Koch is lobbying Manchin to oppose much of the Democratic agenda, including a sweeping bill to protect and expand voting rights.
“President Biden and Senate Dems should take a step back and ask themselves if playing patty-cake with GOP senators is really worth the dismantling of people’s voting rights, setting the planet on fire, allowing massive corporations and the wealthy to not pay their fair share of taxes, etc.,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who has backed progressive calls for $10 trillion in infrastructure and climate spending over the next decade.
With such slim congressional majorities, Democrats can’t afford many defections if they hope to pass an infrastructure and climate package amid unanimous Republican opposition. In the Senate, they can’t lose a single vote.
“No climate, no deal,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted Wednesday.
Despite the GOP’s repeated failure to propose a viable alternative to Biden’s American Jobs Plan, the president plans to continue his push for a bipartisan deal by negotiating with a group of 20 senators led by Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Manchin.
The bipartisan group is reportedly working on a $900 billion infrastructure framework, less than half of the roughly $2.2 trillion in spending Biden called for in his opening offer. It’s unclear how much of the funding under the bipartisan framework would go toward electrical vehicle development, the retrofitting of homes and commercial buildings, clean energy investments, and other priorities Biden included in his initial package.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters Wednesday that the 20 senators do not intend to include tax hikes on corporations or the rich in their proposal—a likely non-starter for progressives and the White House. Romney confirmed that Republicans would not accept tax increases as part of any infrastructure deal.
Biden’s decision to shift his attention to the bipartisan group came days after dozens of activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement rallied at the White House—and at one point blockaded the entrance—to demonstrate their opposition to any watered-down infrastructure deal with the GOP.
After new data showed that atmospheric carbon dioxide reached its highest level in over four million years during the month of May, Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash warned in a statement Tuesday that “Biden will either pass a historic infrastructure package with climate at its core, or he will have to look us in the eyes and tell us why he failed to do everything possible to stop the climate crisis while he had the power to do so.”
“Anything less than a robust jobs and climate package is a death sentence for our generation,” said Prakash. “Whether it’s Capito or Romney, it should come as no surprise that the GOP wants to strip climate from the infrastructure package because he is literally working with a party of climate deniers. We can’t wait for them to come around to the science on this and we will continue to fight until he delivers on the climate mandate he promised us.”
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who last week said he would “have a very hard time” voting for a bill significantly smaller than Biden’s original American Jobs Plan, tweeted Wednesday that “this is literally a matter of life or death.”
“Our plan on climate needs to be built to sustain our planet,” Bowman added, “not the fossil fuel industry.”