Climate Politics: The View from Washington (12th Mar.)


Original appeared at Civil Notion

Climate Politics: The View from Washington (12th Mar.)

Joel Stronberg, Esq.
By Joel Stronberg, Esq. and 03/12/24

Legislation is not enacted in a vacuum. Successful advocacy strategies begin with understanding the political context in which proposed climate-related policies are debated and acted upon.

Congress finally passed a FY2023 appropriations bill for six federal agencies. The vote on the package was 339-85. The package includes the following funding bills: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

Image courtesy of the Famous Idaho Potato Tour

The text of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2024 is available here. A complete summary of the appropriations provisions in the bill is available here. Community Project Funding included in the package is available here.

Congress has until March 22nd to pass appropriations for the remaining six federal agencies. Although the ultra-conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) and other MAGA-aligned conservatives in both the House and Senate are crying foul and calling their own members profligates, they didn’t have enough clout to stop the passage of the first tranche of appropriations. It’s a sign that re-election jitters are finally hitting Republican members of Congress.

The second appropriations package of six agencies may encounter turbulence from the far right. As reported by the Hill, “Senators in both parties are warning that a political food fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security could cause a partisan government shutdown this month. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said that ‘Homeland is absolutely the toughest’ of the bunch but pointed out all of them are getting weighed down by fights over additions being pushed by House conservatives.”

Congress will need to pass the second package if it hopes to remove the threat of automatic cuts kicking in because of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (Act). To avoid automatic cuts on programs, actual appropriations bills—as compared to continuing resolutions—must be passed for FY2024.

Will the passage of this current year’s appropriations be enough to convince voters in swing districts that Republicans can govern? That’s yet to be seen. In part, it will depend on what happens next. The ultra-rights in the House may pick some other target to focus on. Speaker Johnson seems to be giving them free rein on the impeachment of President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas and the investigation into Hunter Biden. In the cases of the president and Mayorkas, Republican investigators seem to be coming up with no actionable evidence of conduct that would rise to an impeachment requirement of a high crime or misdemeanor.

One thing all GOP members of Congress agree on is that President Biden’s $7.3 billion FY2025 budget will never pass Congress. As a matter of tradition, a president submits his spending proposals following his State of the Union (SOTU) message to Congress while opposing party members cry “Dead on Arrival!”

There’s no chance that Congress will pass Biden’s spending plan. White House budget proposals—especially in an election year—are really just about messaging.

The president’s budget proposals reflect his continued support for clean energy and environmental policies and programs. Climate-related budget items in the proposed budget include:

  • $8.5 billion across the Department of Energy to support researchers and entrepreneurs to develop clean energy technologies in the areas of offshore wind, industrial heat, sustainable aviation fuel, and grid infrastructure.
  • $455 million to strengthen the use of artificial intelligence within the energy sector. 
  • $4.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) while allowing states to use these funds to provide water-bill assistance to low-income families.
  • $1.5 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation to further regulate air pollution and waste.
  • $8.2 billion for the Department of Energy to address legacy waste and contamination in communities, as well as funding for the EPA to enforce the Toxic Substances Control Act. 
  • $1.6 billion to the DOE to support clean energy jobs and infrastructure projects. 
  • $23 billion in climate adaptation and resilience. Funds are also included to help farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners meet production goals in the face of climate change.
  • Funding the expansion of the American Climate Corps over the next decade is also a priority. The intent is to add 50,000 more ACC members annually by 2031. 
  • Commits $11 billion to international climate finance, with $3 billion allocated to finance the Green Climate Fund – a UN-created program that would help developing countries to create adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. 
  • Assumes enactment of the administration’s request for $300 million in supplemental funding for 2024 to safeguard the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 
  • $142 million to deploy clean energy on federal lands and waters, which would also support the leasing, planning, and permitting of solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects and transmission infrastructure. 
  • $22 million for technical support, studies, and habitat restoration activities to restore fish species in the Columbia and Snake River basins. 
  • $200 million for environmental planning, consultation, and migratory bird permitting under the Endangered Species Act – an increase of more than $40 million above the 2023 enacted level. 

Thinner is the word that is coming to characterize the GOP’s majority in the House. Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO) is calling it quits earlier than first announced. Buck had announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election at the end of his term. It turns out that he’ll be leaving at the end of next week (March 22nd).

With his departure, “Republicans will outnumber Democrats 218 to 213 in the House. That means Republicans can afford to lose only two votes to pass legislation along party lines when everyone is attending and voting.” A special election to fill Buck’s remaining term will be held on June 25th.

Buck is leaving because he’s disappointed by his many fellow Republicans continuing to lie about who won the 2020 presidential election fair and square. According to the representative:

Our nation is on a collision course with reality, and a steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward. Too many Republican leaders are lying to America.Representative Ken Buck (R-CO)

To date, 21 House Republicans, including Buck, are retiring from this Congress or seeking other offices; the number for the Democrats is 23, according to a roster maintained by the House Press Gallery.

POLITICO is reporting that “prominent conservatives have devised a road map to cement climate policy rollbacks under a future President Donald Trump. Chief among their targets: exiting the Paris climate agreement for good.”

According to POLITICO, “The idea, included in a 920-page policy report, is to pull the United States out of the 1992 treaty that underpins the Paris deal, known as the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. That would be a serious step beyond what Trump did during his first term when he exited the Paris Agreement but continued sending delegations to the annual U.N. climate talks.”

The Party of Lincoln is now solidly the Party of Trump. The Republican National Committee is now firmly in the former president’s hands with the election of co-chairs Michael Whatley as Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law. The new co-chairs wasted no time culling 60 current staff across all departments. It was characterized as an “absolute blood bath” by someone in the know.

As reported by The Guardian, “the firings are part of a strategy to ensure that only staffers committed to Trump and the Maga movement are left at the RNC as Trump tightens his grip on the party ahead of the presidential election in November.” Only those willing to claim that the 2020 election was stolen from the former president need apply.

Finally—The Hill’s Judy Kurtz reports, “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would like to overhaul the annual White House Easter Egg Roll by doing away with the main ingredient.” PETA is proposes using potatoes as egg substitutes. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk suggests that a “potato roll” wouldn’t “exploit any sentient beings and would encourage empathy and kindness to animals while supporting potato farmers in the U.S.” So far, neither the National Potato Council nor the Idaho Potato Commission have indicated support for the idea—but PETA is hopeful.

And that’s it for this edition of Climate Politics