Democrats to Focus on Climate Change in Next Congress
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With control of the Senate secured after the midterm elections, congressional Democratic leaders anticipate climate change will serve as a guiding principle for the remainder of President Joe Biden’s first term.
While the governing majority in the House of Representatives has yet to be determined, Democrats tasked with setting the party’s strategy have previewed a post-midterm agenda centered on severe-weather infrastructure resilience. They plan to build on the ongoing implementation of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which turns 1 year old this week, as well as myriad provisions approved in the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Folks, we are proving that good climate policy is good economic policy,” President Joe Biden said at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change on Nov. 11. The conference was held in Egypt.
“It’s a strong foundation for durable, resilient, inclusive economic growth,” he said. “It’s driving progress in the private sector. It’s driving progress around the world.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), leader of her caucus, also addressed attendees at the conference this month. “As we have discussed these issues for decades, many of us, it’s always been about survival of the planet, survival of the vulnerable countries and the rest,” she said. “We want more than survival, we want more than success.
“With our [Inflation Reduction Act] legislation, we have crossed the threshold of transformation. We want it to be transformative in the lives of the American people as we use that technology that will come from that but also share that with the rest of the world. We know there’s much more that needs to be done.”
Addressing the effects of climate change has been a priority for the Department of Transportation, under Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The department’s strategic plan is anchored, partly, on climate and sustainability policies. According to USDOT, officials are “working hard to build a transportation system that mitigates the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, is resilient to the impacts of climate change, and advances climate and environmental justice.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes historic investments to improve public safety and climate resilience, create jobs, and deliver a more equitable future for all. Learn about @VolpeUSDOT’s recent work and tools that support these investments: https://t.co/TDGTtPSGr8 — TransportationGov (@USDOT) October 9, 2022
“Low- and medium-income and minority households tend to have less access to convenient and affordable transportation options, and communities that are overburdened and historically underserved are exposed to a disproportionate amount of air pollution and other environmental hazards. A long history of federal policies has shaped our transportation system, profoundly influencing the ways its benefits and burdens are distributed,” per background from USDOT. “Recognizing this, the department is committed to addressing the disproportionate negative environmental impacts of transportation on disadvantaged communities.”
For Democrats in Congress and the Biden White House to continue to realize their climate goals, contending with Republicans’ insistence on investigations and increased oversight will be a requisite. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, is vying for the speakership under a GOP majority. A platform for his party next year is committing vast resources to examine and dissect the Biden administration’s modus operandi as well as the president’s inner circle.
“Our committees will be prepared to immediately start holding this administration accountable for its incompetence and abuses of power,” McCarthy said shortly after Election Day. “Finally, unlike the Democrat majority over the past two years, our Republican majority will restore the people’s voice inside the People’s House.”
The Week Ahead (Eastern time)
Nov. 15, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Implementing IIJA: Opportunities for Local Jurisdictions to Address Transportation Challenges.” The infrastructure law was enacted Nov. 15, 2021. Watch the hearing here.
Politico’s staff gets at the national infrastructure messaging conundrum: White House viewpoint vis a vis Main Street’s takeaway.
The Biden administration recently launched initiatives designed to connect individuals with careers associated with infrastructure. The Department of Transportation and the White House outlined guidance to assist stakeholders seeking to enhance workforce programs. The administration’s efforts are linked to the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Specifically, DOT is asking grant applicants how a certain infrastructure plan would be “inclusive of populations that are underrepresented in the infrastructure workforce.”
The department explained its aim is centered on promoting quality employment opportunities with options for unionizing, as well as enhancing training and educational outreach programs for underrepresented groups. According to DOT, the guidance is “meant to encourage greater partnership between transportation and workforce agencies at the state and local levels.”
The department’s initiative is part of the White House’s efforts to promote workforce training and equity in freight and passenger transportation fields, among other sectors.
Over the weekend, incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) defeated Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, the state’s former attorney general. Her victory secured her caucus’ majority in the upper chamber for the next two years. Masto, a member of the committee with jurisdiction over transit policy, has repeatedly endorsed upgrading transportation modes. Her opponent championed pursuing domestic energy resources in response to higher gas prices. Laxalt also indicated he would “work to implement policies that boost our supply chains and help employers provide good-paying, steady jobs.”
Thank you, Nevada! pic.twitter.com/NORNR52wp8 — Catherine Cortez Masto (@CortezMasto) November 13, 2022
Still on the national political radar is a runoff in Georgia on Dec. 6 between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), a member of the Commerce Committee on trucking policy, and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, formerly a professional athlete.
Infrastructure week? Former President Donald Trump said he intends to issue a significant announcement on Nov. 15. That date is the anniversary of the $1 trillion infrastructure law’s enactment.
The more you know.
NEW DATA: 90% of coal plants are contaminating water sources.
This is exactly why Chairs @RepPeterDeFazio and @gracenapolitano blasted Trump’s @EPA for passing regulations that failed to protect communities from coal ash that contaminated water in 2020. https://t.co/LXSRbCNmrR — Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (@TransportDems) November 4, 2022
The Last Word
We will not falter in our commitment or in our determination to tackle the climate crisis head-on.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, on Nov. 11
We publish Mondays when Congress is in session. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.
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