Sen. Lisa Murkowski talks to Sen. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office building in Washington, D.C. on June 9, 2021. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Progressive Warnings Grow as Big Oil-Backed Republicans Endorse Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework

"The Senate GOP members participating in these talks on infrastructure have accepted a career total of $15,896,919 in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies."

Support for a bipartisan infrastructure framework that calls for just $579 billion in new spending grew on Wednesday as a group of 20 Democratic and Republican senators endorsed the yet-to-be-finalized proposal, leading progressives to reiterate that any package without adequate climate action is doomed to fail in the House and Senate.

"It's time to go big, bold, and fast. No more negotiations that go nowhere."
--Rep. Pramila Jayapal

"No climate, no deal. Full stop," said Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), echoing a phrase that has become a rallying cry for congressional progressives and climate activists who are warning the Democratic leadership not to water down an infrastructure proposal to appease Republican climate deniers.

"The future of our planet is at stake," Jones added.

On Wednesday afternoon, 10 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party--Sen. Angus King of Maine--issued a joint statement endorsing the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan blueprint (pdf). The statement includes the original bipartisan infrastructure group of 10 senators led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) plus 11 new backers.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the proposal, the Washington Postreported that "the bipartisan Senate plan calls for about $974 billion in infrastructure spending over five years."

"This amounts to roughly $579 billion in new spending, in addition to some redirected spending from other programs," the Post noted. "Biden had originally requested more than $2 trillion in new infrastructure spending, but White House officials had signaled they were willing to consider a package closer to $1 trillion."

A two-page document (pdf) circulating in the Senate and obtained by Politico indicates that the bipartisan group is looking to spend $110 billion on roads and bridges, $73 billion on "power infrastructure," $66 billion on rail, $16 billion on ports and waterways, and $15 billion on electric vehicles. Biden's plan, by contrast, would pump $174 billion into an expansion of electric vehicles.

The word "climate" does not appear in the bipartisan group's blueprint.

The readiness of White House negotiators to pare back President Joe Biden's initial American Jobs Plan in the hopes of winning Republican support has alarmed and angered progressives, who argue that the infrastructure package is the best chance to approve major investments in green energy as well as much-needed improvements to the tattered U.S. social safety net.

While it remains unclear how much--if any--of the funding in the bipartisan framework will be geared toward combating the climate emergency, the composition of the Senate group that's crafting the package has made activists highly skeptical.

According to the advocacy organization Climate Power, "the Senate GOP members participating in these talks on infrastructure have accepted a career total of $15,896,919 in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies." The bipartisan group includes Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

"The devil is in the details--and he's dancing with Big Oil," Climate Power tweeted Wednesday.

Progressives in Congress, meanwhile, have threatened to revolt against any legislative package that skimps on climate action. Biden's original American Jobs Plan, which activists criticized as inadequate, included around $1 trillion in climate-related spending, a total that the bipartisan plan will likely come nowhere near matching.

Evergreen Action and the youth-led Sunrise Movement are keeping a running tally of the senators vowing to reject any infrastructure deal that omits significant climate spending. Thus far, 10 Democratic senators have publicly said they would not vote for an infrastructure bill that falls short on climate action--likely more than enough to sink the legislation.

A number of House progressives have also taken the "no climate, no deal" stand.

"It's time to go big, bold, and fast," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), which is calling for a sweeping package that encompasses so-called traditional infrastructure, climate action, and robust safety-net spending.

"No more negotiations that go nowhere," Jayapal added. "No more missed deadlines. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support a robust American Jobs and Families Plan. Let's get this done."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) estimated that "there are at least 60-70 members" of the House who would vote against an infrastructure bill due to insufficient climate spending.

During a Wednesday night event hosted by the Working Families Party, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined his Democratic colleagues in demanding infrastructure legislation aimed at driving down U.S. carbon emissions, which Biden has vowed to slash by 50% by the end of the decade.

"I will not pass an infrastructure package that doesn't reduce carbon pollution at a scale commensurate with the climate crisis," said Schumer, who went on to say the bill must also include "human infrastructure like child care and paid family leave" and "undo Trump tax cuts for the wealthy."

Schumer's comments came as he is reportedly laying the groundwork for Senate Democrats to move ahead without Republicans using a process known as reconciliation, which allows passage of budget-related bills with just a simple-majority vote.

"It's obvious that, barring some surprisingly abrupt turnaround, Democrats are going to have to pass a big package by themselves, via the simple-majority 'reconciliation' process," Post columnist Greg Sargent wrote earlier this week. "This train is going to leave the station by the end of the month. And that's good: If anything, it should have left some time ago. We can only hope the damage done by the wait doesn't end up being too serious."

The New Republic's Kate Aronoff reported Wednesday that progressive organizations and lawmakers--in agreement that the proposals currently on the table are inadequate--are trying to coalesce around a set of climate demands for the emerging infrastructure legislation.

"Progressive offices and nonprofits are now in the process of trying to align their priorities, which may include $1 trillion of funding for public renewables and $500 billion for clean transportation," wrote Aronoff. "The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has put out several climate priorities for an infrastructure package, including investment in renewables and energy efficiency. Any forthcoming proposal is likely to incorporate pieces from various bills introduced by more left-leaning party members that appear in the CPC's list, including an environmental justice mapping initiative, a Civilian Conservation Corps, and a clean electricity standard."

This story has been updated with additional details on the bipartisan infrastructure blueprint.

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