Putting aside President Biden’s faux pas, which sounded like he would only sign the bi-partisan infrastructure bill if the rest of his agenda is included in a separate budget reconciliation bill, it is essential that both pieces of legislation pass the Congress and are signed into law by the president regardless of when they come to his desk.
Make no mistake, an “infrastructure” bill that addresses the nations’ deteriorating roads, bridges passenger and freight rail, public transportation, and aging water systems is both necessary and long overdue. Perhaps even more importantly, however, our country desperately needs an example of bipartisan cooperation on issues of national importance.
In this tortuous time of partisan acrimony and sniping, the fact that a group of 20 bipartisan senators could agree on an infrastructure bill is momentous. The fact that it only includes new spending significantly less than Biden’s original proposal should be irrelevant. The bill has the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, which would be unprecedented in this political climate. The country needs infrastructure repair. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi should support it. The Congress should pass the legislation, and President Biden should sign it regardless of when it comes to his desk. This brings us to the reconciliation infrastructure bill which can be passed if all 50 Democratic senators vote for it, with Vice President Harris being the 51st vote.
June 2021 broke all-time heat records across the United States. Unseasonal temperatures up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit are occurring in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Portland, Oregon recorded its hottest day ever at 108 degrees, with even higher temperatures reaching 114 degrees predicted. Seattle reached 102 degrees, the second hottest day in the city’s history. The twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul recorded their hottest days ever with temperatures over the century mark. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., experienced temperatures ranging from 100 to 105. California and the entire West are once again in drought. This is not an abnormal weather phenomenon; it’s climate change running rampant.
While I sometimes feel like the man “crying wolf,” the wolf is at the door. The world’s leading climate scientists are clear: Only a dozen years remain for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5ºC. Beyond that, even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of desertification, freshwater shortages, droughts, floods, sea level rise, fires, extreme heat, and poverty, dislocation for hundreds of millions of people, and economic distress. Warming at 2ºC will begin the collapse of our life-giving ecosystems. The Democratic proposed reconciliation bill would include desperately needed greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures.
While the bipartisan bill addresses electric-car-charging infrastructure, by itself, that is too little too late to deal with the coming climate catastrophe. Greenhouse gas reduction measures should include a clean electricity standard that would set federal mandates to increase carbon-free electricity production, able to reduce the sector’s GHG emissions by 80 percent, by the end of the decade. This would be in the reconciliation infrastructure bill. The reconciliation bill would also contain tax credits and other financial incentives for electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies, funding streams to help modernize the electricity grid, policies aimed at improving energy efficiency, and research and development opportunities to lower carbon emissions. All of these things significantly fight climate change.
At this point, it doesn’t matter what Republicans, or the conservative right, have to say about climate change, or the Democrats passing a bill through budget reconciliation. The Democrats have the power to do it. The planet needs the climate change objectives that would be in the bill. 2022 is rapidly approaching. The Democrats could lose control of both the Senate and House. Climate change isn’t waiting. If the Democrats don’t act now, it may be too late to make a difference.