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Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) speaks at a press conference

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

'Climate Denial Masquerading as Bipartisanship': Progressives Reject Latest Infrastructure Compromise

"Refusing to act on climate means selling out future generations. The future of our planet and the health of our communities are non-negotiable."

Jake Johnson

The progressive rallying cry of "no climate, no deal" continued to gain steam Friday in response to the emerging details of a bipartisan infrastructure proposal that calls for just $580 billion in new spending, a sum that climate leaders in Congress and at the grassroots rejected as woefully inadequate.

"No way that I'm supporting an infrastructure package that doesn't invest in fighting the climate crisis."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal

While the bipartisan group of senators led by Mitt Romney (R-Utah.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and others has yet to fully flesh out its plan, early indications suggest the proposal will fall well short on green energy investments and other climate initiatives that progressive lawmakers view as essential priorities amid soaring temperatures and record levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the bipartisan group, told the Washington Post on Thursday that the tentative new framework will include proposals to combat the climate crisis but predicted that some lawmakers will view the plan as "not adequate."

As news of the bipartisan plan began to trickle out Thursday evening, progressive lawmakers made clear that they were not impressed.

"It sounds like, to me, that they have a package which is climate denial masquerading as bipartisanship," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the lead Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, said in an appearance on MSNBC. "We can't have an infrastructure bill in 2021 that doesn't have climate at its center... No climate, no deal."

Markey's "no climate, no deal" mantra was soon echoed by progressive advocacy organizations and other members of Congress, who said they would not be willing to vote for any infrastructure package that skimps on climate action. With razor-thin margins in the House and Senate, Democrats can ill afford any defections.

"No way that I'm supporting an infrastructure package that doesn’t invest in fighting the climate crisis," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus. "Who's with me?"

On Friday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) warned that "refusing to act on climate means selling out future generations."

"The future of our planet and the health of our communities are non-negotiable," Merkley added.

As the Washington Post reported, Biden's original $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan "proposed roughly $1 trillion in clean energy tax credits, support for electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure, research into breakthrough green technologies, and a new jobs program to restore public lands and plug abandoned oil and gas wells, among other climate-related measures."

But as infrastructure negotiations with Senate Republicans and conservative Democrats have dragged on in recent weeks, Biden administration officials have signaled that some of the climate provisions in the president's opening offer could be abandoned in an effort to win support from GOP lawmakers, many of whom continue to deny the reality of human-caused climate change.

With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass a bill through regular order.

Alternatively, Democrats could use the arcane budget reconciliation process—which requires just a simple-majority vote—to pass an infrastructure package on their own. But Manchin, whose vote is necessary if Democrats opt to proceed unilaterally, has voiced opposition to pursuing a reconciliation package without Republican backing.

Rahna Epting, executive director of progressive advocacy group MoveOn, said in a statement Friday that "the idea that Republican senators will support anything close to what is needed in this moment is simply not realistic."

"We've waited long enough. Now is the time for action," said Epting. "Republicans are more interested in obstructing and delaying Biden's agenda than solving today's problems... Neither those who need this help nor Democrats in Congress have one more minute to waste with Republican obstruction."

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