House Democrats nudge Senate on reconciliation package

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, George Cahlink. E&E News • Posted: Monday, June 20, 2022

House progressives.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and other lawmakers during a press conference yesterday. Francis Chung/E&E News

House Democrats called on their Senate counterparts to take action on stalled party-line climate and social spending legislation yesterday and encouraged the White House to finalize a deal that would invest hundreds of billions in clean energy technology.

Those calls came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that talks on the legislation, the stalled “Build Back Better Act,” were “alive.”

Leaders of the New Democrat Coalition, the Progressive Caucus, and the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition — 175 members in all — joined a letter pleading President Joe Biden to strike a deal and act on $550 billion in pending climate investments contained in the bill.

“We’re calling for President Biden and the Senate Majority Leader and the 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to come together around an ambitious reconciliation package that will secure those opportunities for all Americans now and in the future,” SEEC Co-Chair Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference yesterday.

If it is, in fact, revived, the clean energy tax title contained in “Build Back Better” would represent one of the largest investments in low-carbon and carbon-free energy deployment in the nation’s history.

Credits would be showered on renewable energy, nuclear, carbon capture and energy storage technologies. The original tax plan also included billions in manufacturing credits to bolster domestic production of those technologies. It also contained a first-ever tax on methane emissions

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a press conference yesterday. | Francis Chung/E&E News

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has remained the most vocal holdout on action on the package after he killed it late last year. The chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, however, appears to have reengaged on negotiations for a smaller package. He has met with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) several times in the past few weeks to discuss parameters of a deal.

Since December, after he withdrew his support for the bill, Manchin has consistently said that he is seeking legislation that deals with inflation, the deficit and lowering energy prices by increasing domestic production. He has also said that he wants to pursue “a path of investing in new technologies” dealing with climate and energy (E&E Daily, June 13).

“We have 99.9 percent of people in the Democratic Party ready to do this,” said Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). “Let’s move it forward.”

The calls for action follow a White House summit earlier this week featuring Pelosi and Schumer. The two leaders met with Biden to talk about inflation, energy costs, the deficit and prescription drugs. All of those policies seem likely to be part of a new reconciliation deal, though the White House did not bill it as such a discussion (E&E Daily, June 16).

Yesterday, during her briefing with reporters, Pelosi suggested she would be open to scaling back the House-backed $1.7 trillion reconciliation package if it comes to that.

“Everything that was in the reconciliation bill was great, so if we just had some of it, that would be very good,” Pelosi told reporters yesterday morning.

She did not elaborate on where those trade-offs might come from, although she added she was eager to ensure extension of expiring Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Pelosi refused to discuss specifics, noting ongoing Senate negotiations “were closely held.”

“It’s alive, I would say that,” she added.