White House Signals a Push for Green New Deal Measures Through Budget Reconciliation

July 12, 2021 Updated: July 12, 2021

The Biden administration will be pushing a separate bill with climate change priorities not covered in the bipartisan infrastructure bill through the budget reconciliation process, such as mandating U.S. power companies supply zero-carbon electricity, according to a memo from two top Democrat aides.

“As President Biden has noted, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework leaves out critical initiatives on climate change that he proposed as part of his Build Back Better agenda,” the memo reads. “That is why he intends to work with Congress through the budget process to pass additional legislation that will position the U.S. to combat climate change, create good-paying, union jobs, and win the clean energy future.”

While a group of Republican and Democrat lawmakers is negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure deal with President Joe Biden, Democrats say the package does address their climate priorities, including achieving 100 percent carbon-free power by 2035.

Progressives of the Democratic party want to achieve zero emissions by moving to all renewable and nuclear power.

Some of Biden’s climate priorities are in the bipartisan bill, which may get enough Republican votes to pass in the Senate, but many others will need to be in a separate bill destined for budget reconciliation. The budget reconciliation process will allow Democrats to pass the legislation with zero Republican support.

The memo was sent out by National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and senior adviser Anita Dunn.

The climate priorities in the separate infrastructure bill include giving tax breaks to businesses and consumers who invest in clean energy technologies, and “sending a market signal that brings additional private investment off the sidelines and into modernizing our electric grid through an Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard.”

McCarthy and Dunn say $10 billion will be needed for “mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience workers” and the bill will also expand clean energy tax credits.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he thinks the bipartisan infrastructure bill might pass the Senate but Republicans will not support the broader bill because of the impact on the national debt.

“There is a portion of it, $1 trillion, that we have a chance to move forward with on a bipartisan basis,” said McConnell on July 8 during a speech to the Kentucky chamber of commerce. However, he pointed out that Democrats plan to spend up to $5 trillion in total.

“They plan to come with one more reconciliation proposal to finish up the rest of what they would like to do, which will include $3.2 trillion in tax increases,” said McConnell adding that the Democrats want to increase the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and they plan to increase the capital gains tax, both of which GOP oppose.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks about his opposition to S. 1, the “For The People Act” in Washington on June 17, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

“And if there’s anything left to reach the $5 trillion, they’d add that to the national debt as well. So, let me just sum it up by saying this is going to be a hell of a fight,” McConnell added. “This is a fight worth having, this is not the right thing to do for the country. I don’t think they have a mandate to do it. And all of this is going to unfold here in the next few weeks. First, we’ll get a sense of whether the infrastructure bill comes together and can pass on a bipartisan basis, and then second we’ll be confronting this other package that they will have no margin for error to pass in a 50-50 Senate.”

During a July 7 interview with MSNBC, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg praised the bipartisan infrastructure package but said if GOP members don’t vote in favor of the climate priorities and broader infrastructure provisions in a separate bill, Democrats will use reconciliation to push it through.

“Again, this bipartisan infrastructure framework represents the biggest investment we have seen in generations in American infrastructure in many ways, on many subjects, the biggest investment in American history, but we know we got to do more and if we have to do that part, without Republican votes, so be it,” said Buttigieg.

In addition to clarifying the White House’s intent to use the budget reconciliation process, McCarthy and Dunn also praised the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“The Framework contains transformational investments in clean energy, water, and power infrastructure, climate resiliency, and more,” the memo states. “The Framework also includes the largest federal investment in history to modernize and expand transit and rail networks across the country, which would improve access to sustainable transportation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The bipartisan deal makes huge investments in clean water infrastructure, eliminating “legacy pollution” by reclaiming abandoned coal mines and capping oil wells, investing in public transit and the electric grid. The memo says the bipartisan bill will also put billions into climate change disaster prevention, like wildfires, and create “a first-of-its-kind Infrastructure Financing Authority that will leverage billions into clean transportation and clean energy, water, distributed energy resources, and retrofits of residential, commercial, and municipal buildings.”