Senate Debates Freight-Centered Budget Bill

Port of Los Angeles
Containerships at the Port of Los Angeles. The budget bill would dedicate $3 billion to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions at the country’s ports. (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg News)

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Legislation that aims to reduce emissions at commercial ports and freight corridors is topping Senate Democrats’ legislative priorities ahead of the upcoming congressional summer recess.

A scaled-back version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better climate change proposal, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 seeks to enhance the resilience to severe weather events for infrastructure projects and promote greener sources of energy for most of the transportation network.

Specifically, the budget bill would dedicate $27 billion for a greenhouse gas reduction fund. The money would assist nonprofits and state agencies to leverage private investments for climate change-centric projects. It would dedicate $3 billion to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions at the country’s ports. The bill also would dedicate $1 billion to upgrade heavy-duty vehicles with zero-emitting capabilities.

EPW-InflationReductionAct by Transport Topics

Additionally, the bill would provide $60 million for Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding. The program targets communities near areas exposed to diesel emissions.

“In what would amount to the most ambitious climate bill ever enacted, this legislation would put our nation on track to nearly 40% emissions reduction by the end of the decade, unleash the potential of the American clean energy industry, and create good-paying jobs across the country,” said Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), a co-sponsor. “Just as its name suggests, at its core, this legislation is about lowering costs and creating a fairer economy for American families. That means finally lowering drug prices that weigh on our nation’s seniors with fixed incomes, keeping health insurance affordable for millions of Americans, and making sure that corporations and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s chairman and the bill’s primary architect, observed, “We have the opportunity to make our country stronger by bringing Americans together. I will do everything I can to usher in a new era of compromise and common sense that will make America more energy secure, financially sound and a more united country for this generation and the next.”

“From here forward,” Manchin continued, “the debate over a future reconciliation bill or any targeted legislation, must focus on supporting the everyday hardworking Americans we have been elected to serve.”

In preparing the bill’s vote on the floor of the chamber, Democratic leaders are pursuing procedural rules to require a simple majority for passage. Senate Democrats, appearing confident about passing the climate and tax package via a budget reconciliation procedure, are banking on the support of their 50-member caucus. Absent Republican support, Democrats would rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to serve as the tiebreaker.

The bill’s timing in the chamber remains uncertain. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has yet to schedule votes to ultimately advance the legislation to the House. Debate on the $740 billion budget package is expected during the week of Aug. 8. Congress typically goes on recess for most of August.

House Democratic leaders as well as the White House have endorsed the legislation.

“Former Treasury secretaries from both the Democratic and Republican administrations just became the latest in a wide range of economic experts to endorse the Inflation Reduction Act,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recently told reporters. “These high-level officials from both parties reaffirmed that this package will cut many families’ biggest cost and act against inflation. They also became the latest in a long list of experts, as I shared with you recently, who have debunked congressional Republicans’ lies meant to protect tax welfare for wealthy special interests at any cost, even prolong inflation.”

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Republicans, meanwhile, remain critical of the climate and clean energy legislation. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for instance, took issue with the measure’s economic objectives as well as energy provisions.

“The so-called Inflation Reduction Act would actually increase inflation in the short term and do nothing for inflation in the long term,” McConnell said. “Their tax hikes would shatter President Biden’s promise not to impact households earning below $400,000. Many billions of dollars of the new tax hikes would fall directly on the working class and the middle class.”

“Democrats want to raise taxes, pass more reckless government spending, and attack American energy,” argued Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of his caucus’ leadership team. “Democrats are out of touch with the reality facing the American people. Now, we’re facing a recession because of their economic failures.”