Washington Weekly: July 7, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
Infrastructure Bill Updates:
- The clock is ticking to get legislation on paper as different factions of the Democratic Party debate in committee the best approach to take on infrastructure. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus called for a stand alone vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package endorsed by President Biden. This puts some Democrats at odds with party leadership who have signaled they will only pass the bipartisan deal in tandem with a second climate-focused bill that will pass along party lines. Climate advocates have sounded the alarm that the bipartisan deal falls woefully short on investment in climate, and called for bold investments to be included in the reconciliation package.
- House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called for a “Unity Budget Resolution” hoping to draft a reconciliation package that can win the votes of all 50 Senators who caucus with the Democrats from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Disputes over how to pay for the package, the top-line price tag, and what is needed most — action on climate or investments in the care-economy — highlight the fragility of ongoing negotiations.
- Last week we were given a rare inside view into how lobbying from the fossil fuel industry is working to derail any action on climate in the infrastructure negotiations. In a bombshell sting video, activists lured an ExxonMobil lobbyist into revealing their tactics to sow disinformation on climate change.
On Thursday, the House passed a $715 billion transportation and drinking water bill that includes many more climate provisions than the bipartisan agreement being considered in the Senate. The bill, which passed 221-201 largely along party lines, will likely not be taken up in the Senate as is, but is seen more by House Democrats as a starting point from which to negotiate with senators and President Biden.
The national League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and Climate Power announced the launch of new TV and digital ads in Michigan to thank members of Congress for fighting for climate and environmental justice and encourage them to keep up efforts to put our country on the path to 100% carbon-free energy. The Michigan ads are running thanks to a $10 million paid media boost in 16 states and 23 congressional districts as part of the nationwide Great American Build campaign.
Last month was the hottest June ever recorded in the U.S., according to researchers at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, with an average temperature two degrees hotter than the average June temperatures from 1991-2020.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
Over the past two weeks, Michigan has been thrust into the national climate spotlight on two fronts. First, with Detroit experiencing “once in a century” flooding for the third time since 2014, devistating thousands of homes and businesses and shutting down major metro Detroit freeways. Second, as President Biden visited Traverse City and Antrim County on July 3 to tout the bipartisan infrastructure plan and discuss, among other things, climate change and its impact on Michigan’s farms (and to eat cherry pie).
On Friday, June 26, torrential rain began to pour down on metro Detroit, lasting into Saturday morning. The flooding caused significant damage to homes, cultural institutions, roadways, and more that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — and perhaps more — to repair. Many residents are still dealing with the effects.
Frustration has understandably grown as Detroiters have begun to experience massive flooding on a consistent basis, often without adequate clean-up support from authorities — leaving volunteers to do much of the work. While local officials certainly need to be more prepared for disaster response, increasing damage from more regular extreme weather events caused by climate change highlight the dire need for federal action to improve our country’s infrastructure and to mitigate climate impact.
Last Saturday, President Biden made his second visit to Michigan as president, and just the third presidential visit to Northern Michigan since 1992. He spent most of his afternoon touring King Orchards with Governor Whitmer and Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters to celebrate progress on Covid-19 and encourage vaccination efforts, and discuss climate change and infrastructure.
While the president didn’t speak publicly, his trip was a part of a larger tour to promote the bipartisan infrastructure proposal and additional plans to invest in families, education, and climate. He also heard directly from Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers and tribal citizens about the threat Line 5 poses to our Great Lakes.
Governor Whitmer, in her public remarks, made clear that infrastructure and climate were top of mind for both herself and the president. Referencing the flooding in Detroit, she stated that “[Infrastructure] is on everybody’s [mind] because we saw under-invested infrastructure collide with climate change.”
Both the devastating flooding and the president’s visit highlight, once again, the important role our state plays in the climate crisis and the national political landscape…. Making Michigan a critical place for President Biden to gain support for the bipartisan infrastructure proposal and larger national climate policy.
A Deeper Dive
Not only was last month the hottest recorded June in U.S. history, it also saw individual record high temperatures in 5,770 cities and towns across the country. Check out this short video by Climate Power that shows the scale of these records being broken in dramatic fashion.
Lastly, remember to register for our upcoming webinars happening this week and next:
- Tonight at 7pm, Michigan LCV is hosting a virtual event as a part of our People, Planet, Public Health webinar series. During the event, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-8), Oakland County Water Commissioner Jim Nash, the local UA 333 Plumbers and Pipefitters union, Huron River Watershed Council, and other partners, will discuss the opportunity to address climate change, provide clean, affordable water, and create jobs in order to build America back greener. You still have time to register here.
- Next Wednesday, July 14 at 7pm, our partners at Empower Michigan are hosting the first webinar in their series People Power: Positive Energy in Michigan. Donele Wilkins, Executive Director of the Green Door Initiative, will speak about the new Detroit Solar Manufacturing project. You can register here.
- Next Thursday, July 15 at 4pm, we will be hosting another People, Planet, Public Health event with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Oran Hesterman, Founder & CEO of Fair Food Network, and Quiana “Que” Broden, Founder & Executive Chef of the Kitchen by Cooking with Que in Detroit, for a discussion about the ties between healthy food access, sustainable farming, and climate change — as well as the opportunities in Congress to improve our food systems and infrastructure. You can register for this event here.