House Democrats prod Senate, Biden on climate legislation

Climate advocates warn Biden and top Democrats that the window to pass a significant climate bill is closing

“We have presented a consensus of diverse voices, diverse communities, diverse perspectives in the political sphere and we have suggested that we have come together," Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said at a news conference Thursday about the House Democrats' message to the Senate. "Now tell us what you can send us back because it is so important that we get this done.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
“We have presented a consensus of diverse voices, diverse communities, diverse perspectives in the political sphere and we have suggested that we have come together," Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said at a news conference Thursday about the House Democrats' message to the Senate. "Now tell us what you can send us back because it is so important that we get this done.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 16, 2022 at 3:04pm

Congressional Democrats are redoubling their push for a sweeping climate bill this Congress, urging President Joe Biden to “do everything” in his power to make a deal as the country braces for a hot and arid summer and the world’s atmosphere breaks greenhouse gas records.

House Democrats on Thursday pressed the Senate to consider the climate and renewable-energy elements of the legislation their chamber passed last year — the roughly $2 trillion budget reconciliation bill — before the August recess. There is broad support in the House for those measures, they said.

“We have presented a consensus of diverse voices, diverse communities, diverse perspectives in the political sphere, and we have suggested that we have come together," Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said at a news conference Thursday about the House Democrats' message to the Senate. "Now tell us what you can send us back, because it is so important that we get this done.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the bill would help peel the U.S. away from a fossil-fuel-centric economy. “It would have brought support to frontline communities that have been devastated by pollution and the climate crisis.”

Tonko and Jayapal were among 175 House Democrats who signed a letter, sent Wednesday, to Biden, pressing the president to take a more rigorous position in brokering a deal with lawmakers to pass a significant climate bill this Congress.

As the midterm elections loom, the political winds appear to be tilting in favor of Republicans and the August recess beckons, environmental and climate advocates are warning Biden and top Democrats in Washington that the window to pass a significant climate bill is closing.

“We write to urge you to do everything in your power to reach a deal and sign into law as swiftly as possible a revised reconciliation package that includes the climate investments passed by the U.S. House of Representatives,” the letter reads. “These investments were some of the many important provisions in that package, and we would support a deal that includes as much of the House-passed bill as possible.”

Renewed push

In March, Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., urged the president to revive climate talks on Capitol Hill after the House legislation had stalled in the Senate, due to opposition from Republicans and centrist Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. Another key Democrat whose vote is likely needed to pass the bill in the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has not committed to supporting the legislation

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., made a similar request on Jan. 31.

The renewed push comes as more than 1,000 businesses called on Biden and Congress in a separate campaign to pass economy-wide climate legislation.

“In 2020, losses from hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and other climate-fueled disasters cost our nation $95 billion,” the group said in a letter Thursday morning. “For our businesses these disasters create severe disruption to our supply chains, employee dislocation, manufacturing and distribution interruptions, and a host of other impacts,” the letter reads. “Our businesses are already severely impacted by climate change which will only get worse if action is not taken.”

Firms that signed onto the letter include Patagonia, Pirelli Tire North America, ski companies Arapahoe Basin and the Aspen Skiing Co., REI Co-op, utility company Seattle City Light, home-goods manufacturer Seventh Generation and the Clif Bar & Co.

Climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a briefing Thursday that the global temperature from January through May this year was the sixth hottest on record, dating back to 1880.

“There is a 99 percent chance that 2022 will rank among the 10 warmest years on record,” said Karin Gleason, a climatologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

“About 44 and a half percent of the contiguous U.S. is currently experiencing some level of drought,” Gleason said. “This is actually just more than 9 percent below what it was in early May.”

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit its highest mark in human history, surpassing 420 parts per million, according to data from the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. 

Republicans outlined a two-page climate strategy on June 2 that supports more exports of liquefied gas, contrary to what climate scientists say is necessary. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in February, underscored that the U.S. is still vulnerable to the ups and downs of fossil fuel markets, the Democrats’ letter says.

“This energy crisis has shown that — despite being a net-exporter of fossil fuels — the United States is still beholden to the global energy market in a way that is hurting American consumers,” it says. “Unfortunately, we no longer have the luxury of waiting if we want to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. We simply cannot fail to meet this moment.”

David Jordan contributed to this report.