WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s hopes of channeling billions of dollars into green infrastructure investments to fight climate change are running into the political obstacle of winning over Republican lawmakers who oppose that approach as unnecessary, excessive spending.
As negotiations unfold in Congress in search of a bipartisan deal, the White House’s ability to ensure a climate focus in Biden’s sweeping infrastructure package is becoming daunting — so much so that key Democrats are warning the administration to quit negotiating with Republicans, calling it a waste of time that will produce no viable compromise.
“From my perspective, no climate, no deal,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “I won’t just vote against an infrastructure package without climate action — I’ll fight against it.″
The debate is similar to the political and policy differences complicating Biden’s broader talks over his ambitious infrastructure agenda, the sweeping $1.7 trillion American Jobs Plan making its way through Congress, as Democrats and Republicans argue over what, exactly, constitutes infrastructure and how much is needed.
The White House is holding firm to Biden’s initial ideas, which tally nearly $1 trillion in climate-related investments that aim to bolster the electric vehicle market, make buildings and property more resilient to harsh weather patterns and push the country’s electrical grid to become carbon-free by 2035.
The president is seeking a newer definition of infrastructure, trying not only to patch up the nation’s roads and highways, but also to rebuild its economy with new kinds of investments for the 21st century. The Republicans prefer a more traditional approach that touches modestly on some climate-related elements but focuses more specifically on transportation and other typical developments.
As Biden courts a new bipartisan group of 10 senators, who are eyeing a scaled-down proposal, leading Democrats are worried their party is losing an opportunity with control of the House, Senate and White House to make gains on its climate change priorities.
“The President has underscored that climate change is one of the defining crises we face as a nation,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said Friday, “and he and his team have continuously fought for leading on the clean energy economy and on clean energy jobs – which is critical for our economic growth, competitiveness, and middle class.”
At a climate forum Friday, former Vice President Al Gore, who spoke to Biden last month, said: “I know he is committed to this issue. I know it very well because he knows and has said inaction is simply not an option.”
For all the divisions, there may be some common ground between the White House and the Republicans, particularly with the GOP senators now engaged in bipartisan talks.–AP reported.