Washington Weekly: June 30, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
Last weekend, Metro Detroit experienced torrential rain and “once in a century” flooding for the third time since 2014 that devastated homes and businesses, serving as a stark reminder of the accelerating effects of climate change and the disproportionate impact inflicted on low-income and minority communities. Without widespread national news coverage, the flood waters that closed I-94, I-75, and other major roadways in and around Detroit were exacerbated by the lack of meaningful infrastructure investments in the city for more than three generations.
Infrastructure Bill Updates:
- Last Thursday, President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement on an infrastructure package. The deal, worth $1.2 trillion, includes funding for traditional infrastructure projects, as well as water infrastructure, EV charging stations, and environmental remediation. Despite this win for the White House, the deal leaves out a majority of the climate and energy measures included in the president’s original package.
- In the news conference following the announcement of the deal, President Biden made an off-the-cuff comment stating that he will only sign a bipartisan bill that reflects the $1.2 trillion compromise if there is a simultaneous larger bill that includes funding for climate change, child care, health care, and more that will be passed through reconciliation. While the statement came with praise from many, including Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, who issued a statement supporting this “two-track approach,” it angered conservative Republicans, potentially killing the compromise.
- The President, however, walked back his comments, clarifying that his statement was not meant as a veto threat. The deal appears back on track as Biden travels to Traverse City this weekend to celebrate progress on Covid-19 with Governor Whitmer.
The southwest U.S. is experiencing dangerous “megadroughts” while also becoming increasingly drier. All the while, climate change has caused heat waves that continue to increase temperatures 3 to 5 degrees across the U.S. On Sunday, Portland, OR reached a record high temperature of 110 degrees.
Consumers Energy announced last week that it plans to go coal free by 2025 and carbon neutral by 2040.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
While the Republican Party as a whole gets painted with an anti-climate brush (and not unfairly so), not all Republican voters fall into that category. According to a poll conducted just before the 2020 election, 68% of Republican voters between the ages 18-54 said that climate change is important to their vote. That number only increases among young Republican voters. To date, however, nearly all elected Republicans have been in lock-step against advancing climate policy. Hopefully we are beginning to see a shift in this dynamic, as a small group of Republicans in congress recently formed the Conservative Climate Caucus, the first ever congressional climate caucus in their party that includes Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer (MI-3).
It is certainly encouraging that some Republicans are finally willing to discuss climate change, but at this point it doesn’t appear they are willing to work with Democrats to actually advance urgently-needed climate policy. Last week’s infrastructure deal seems to reinforce their opposition to meaningful climate legislation. (While a bipartisan structure was agreed to for now, the Republican-approved version stripped most climate provisions).
Senator Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders have tried to block nearly every policy put forth by Democrats for the past 2 decades for largely political reasons (not to mention an unprecedented and perhaps unconstitutional blocking of a Supreme Court nominee) and continue to do so, even while in the minority. This utter lack of leadership, coupled with the dangerous and volatile presidency of Donald Trump, has led to one of the most politically dysfunctional eras in American history and only increased the speed and severity of the climate crisis.
Recent positive signs of potential Republican progress on climate are, thus, very welcome. Already, we’ve seen Republicans recognize aspects of our water crises here in Michigan and propose strong solutions. Last week, State Senate Republicans introduced a sweeping, $2.5 billion water infrastructure bill that includes funding for top water and climate priorities of many environmental organizations (including Michigan LCV).
With an almost nonexistent recent track record of bipartisanship and climate action, yet an emerging group of state and federal Republican legislators potentially waking up to the realities of the climate crisis — joining many Republican voters who are already there — the question now becomes: will our democracy be able to save our planet, or will it destroy it? There are signs of momentum and tepid reasons for optimism, but whether necessary, serious bipartisan climate action takes place remains unknown. And we are running out of time.
A Deeper Dive
Next Wednesday, July 7, 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), the Michigan AFL-CIO, 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 can register here. We hope you can join us.
Two weeks from tomorrow, on July 15 at 4pm, we will be hosting yet another People, Planet, Public Health event. This one will feature Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Fair Food Network Founder and CEO Oran Hesterman, and Detroit food entrepreneur and business owner Quiana “Que” Broden to discuss the ties between a healthy, sustainable, and affordable food system and its impact on mitigating climate change. We’ll have more details on this event, including registration information, next week.
Finally, check out our new fact sheet on what the American Jobs Plan means for Michigan, attached here, and click here to take action to send a message to your congressional representatives in support of the American Jobs Plan!
Thanks for reading and Happy Fourth of July.