Washington Weekly: August 18, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
Build Back Better Updates:
- A group of nine centrist Democratic House members are pushing to move forward with a vote on the infrastructure bill, threatening to not support other critical pieces of the Biden economic agenda if the bill doesn’t move forward now — including the urgently-needed $3.5 trillion budget resolution with massive climate investments and an equally important voting rights package to combat the slew of Republican-led anti-voting rights bills in state legislatures across the country (including Michigan).
- Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, with support of a vast majority of the Democratic caucus, are holding firm on their stance to move forward with the budget resolution vote and delay a vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate formally passes the $3.5 trillion social spending package via reconciliation, arguing, in part, that there is no rush to pass infrastructure spending since it won’t go into effect until October 1, when existing transportation programs expire.
- Despite alignment among a vast majority of the Democratic caucus, Speaker Pelosi must walk a careful line with the nine centrists, as she can ill afford to lose them with only a 3 vote margin on the floor.
- Read more below about how these negotiations have very real-world implications for our country and our state.
A new study published by researchers at Harvard University found that last year’s record wildfires in the western U.S. were linked to an increase in COVID-19 infections and nearly a thousand COVID-19 deaths due to the presence of extremely dangerous particulate matter in smoke, which, when combined with a COVID infection, can be lethal. This year’s fires (which set new records surpassing last year’s fire season), including the Dixie Fire, the second largest ever wildfire in California’s history, coupled with the rapid spread of the Delta variant, have public health officials worried about the potential damage, especially for unvaccinated individuals.
On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded in the 142 years of collecting such data.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
Another week. Another round of historic storms. Another record nearly broken at the hands of climate change, this time in the form of power outages. Welcome to Michigan’s new climate normal.
It is now unequivocal that this summer’s record rain, flooding, and winds are not random weather events that will pass, but examples of Michigan’s new climate reality that local and state leaders, and residents, must prepare for.
Last week, Michiganders experienced yet another round of extreme thunderstorms that included mass flooding and winds up to 100 miles per hour, leaving more than 830,000 residents without power as of Thursday morning, nearly tying the 2017 wind storm that caused a record 1 million homes to lose power.
This came on top of already historic flooding in June, when Detroit experienced its second 500-year storm in seven years, and then again in July — damaging tens of thousands of homes and disproportionately harming communities of color and low income communities.
The recently-released climate change assessment report published by the International Panel on Climate Change made clear that, even if the global community acts now to aggressively address climate change, extreme weather events like the ones we are experiencing this summer in Michigan will continue, and get worse, over the next 30 years. Therefore, in addition to rapidly increasing clean energy production and ending our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible to avoid even worse outcomes, we must also prepare for inevitable climate-induced damage that will take place in the coming decades.
The continuous extreme weather and subsequent damage in Michigan is, and will continue to be, a result of a multifaceted problem, according to Jonathon Overpeck from the University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability: “One is certainly climate change making the problem worse. And the second thing is our infrastructure wasn’t designed for climate change.” Thus, they require a multi-pronged solution.
Last week’s passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate was a positive step, even if it falls well short of all needed climate mitigation measures. The fact that many Republican leaders are finally accepting that human-caused climate change is real after decades of denying its existence is encouraging (if woefully overdue), as well.
What happens in the coming weeks in congress will go a long way in understanding how significant climate mitigation investments will be, and how quickly they will happen.
In the House, a group of nine moderate Democrats are calling on Speaker Pelosi to move now to pass the infrastructure bill, threatening to withhold support for the $3.5 trillion social spending package if she doesn’t. A majority of the nearly 100-member progressive caucus, however, in line with the President and the Speaker, have stated that they will not vote for the infrastructure bill until the $3.5 trillion budget resolution is passed through reconciliation in the Senate. Despite the very small minority of Democrats threatening to veto, Speaker Pelosi must navigate her caucus carefully, as she can only lose 3 Democratic votes and still pass the critical social spending package.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, who narrowly passed the $3.5 trillion budget resolution last week to aggressively tackle climate change (among other issues), moderate Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), both of whom voted for the budget resolution, have since voiced concern over its price tag. With the only hope for passage being strictly along party lines, Democrats cannot lose either senator.
This week, senior House Democrats are launching an all out effort to get members of their party to stay united and pass both critical pieces of President Biden’s agenda. If Democrats can convince the nine defectors to align with their caucus, it will offer the best chance of a solution to the two-pronged problem in Michigan and across the country by: 1) Doing our part to meet global carbon neutrality by 2050, keeping weather events from worsening and avoiding even more catastrophic outcomes, while 2) Investing now in infrastructure to mitigate inevitable climate destruction.
Suffice it to say, the stakes are extremely high. And for all of the times that federal policy-making has seemed like a distant exercise with few everyday implications, the next few weeks of congressional action could, quite literally, determine what the future of our state and our planet will look and feel like. You can take action here by calling on your Representative and Senators to support the full Build Back Better agenda.
A Deeper Dive
Last week’s Washington Weekly highlighted efforts by the Biden administration and auto companies to move towards electric vehicles as quickly as possible, calling last week on half of all cars to be electric by 2030. While this is, indeed, a critical goal that can be met if all parties (consumers included) work together, the reality remains that in order to reach complete electrification by 2050 — in line with the president’s goal and warnings of the IPCC to be 100% carbon neutral by that year — the sale of any gas-powered vehicles would have to be phased out entirely by 2035 due to fleet turnover. These visuals and graphs show how difficult it will be to reach that necessary goal, and what it will take to get there.
Lastly, here a couple upcoming events that you may be interested in joining:
- Today in Dearborn at 5:20pm, a number of important decision makers, climate champions, community advocates, and workers, including White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, State Sen. Stephanie Chang, State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, State Rep. Abraham Aiyash, and more are gathering to discuss what Michigan can gain from building a clean energy economy and tackling the climate change crisis. Watch the livestream at Michigan LCV’s Facebook page, Climate Power’s twitter livestream, or Climate Power’s youtube page.
- Tomorrow, August 19, from 2:30-3:30pm, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and grassroots leaders from Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate are hosting a discussion about why we need clean pollution-free neighborhoods, community-owned affordable energy, investments in our water and sewage infrastructure, universal public transportation, and more. No matter our race or our zip code, Michiganders deserve Infrastructure and Reconciliation Packages that center Climate and Environmental Justice. You can join the conversation on Facebook Live here.