Senate Democrats Urge Biden to Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’

Source: By Ari Natter, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Merkley calls prospects for congressional action ‘dead’ Biden could gain sweeping authority to promote clean energy

Joe Biden 

Joe Biden. Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg

Senate Democrats are urging the White House to declare a “climate emergency” while dismissing any optimism that a climate change package could be moved swiftly through Congress in September.

“The potential to enact the legislation is dead,” Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday evening. “This then frees up the president to use the full powers of the executive branch. And those full powers certainly include a climate emergency.”

Among those who have lobbied the White House in recent days to invoke the emergency authority, which was used by former President Donald Trump to begin construction of a border wall, was Senator Ed Markey a Democrat of Massachusetts, an author of the Green New Deal.

“I made my case that it’s time for urgent action,” Markey said Monday. “My hope is his actions will be as bold as the problem requires.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawmakers’ focus on the use of executive authority to address climate change comes after Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat whose vote is pivotal to pass a version of Biden’s economic package in the evenly divided Senate, said last week he wouldn’t support new spending on climate change or tax increases.

That effectively doomed the prospects for hundreds of billions of dollars of clean energy tax credits and other climate measures that have been the subject of months of negotiations.

Democrats needed a united caucus to pass the economic package by simple majority under special budget rules known as reconciliation. Manchin said he wanted to wait until September to see if inflation eases before proceeding on the legislation. But there simply might not be time by then for the grueling votes and other procedures required to push the legislation through.

Biden said Friday that he would “not back down” on climate action and pledged to “take strong executive action to meet this moment.”

Some Democrats, like Markey, expressed hope that a second reconciliation bill could be completed this fall, weeks before elections that will decide control of both houses of Congress.

But Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, who is also pushing for a “climate emergency” among other executive actions, cast doubt on the likelihood of that happening.

Biden “paid out a lot of rope trusting we could do something meaningful on climate,” Whitehouse said. “That patience has not been rewarded. Now we are freed to move and we should.”