In the last two weeks, sources familiar with the matter learned that the bill may be focused less on climate than expected.
The Committee on Environment and Public Works — which has jurisdiction over clean air, clean water, emissions, and environmental justice programs — was slated to take responsibility of only $50 billion of the total $3.5 trillion bill, a figure that would make it nearly impossible to deliver fully on many of the lofty climate and environmental justice promises laid out by the Biden administration.
The parameters of the spending plan are fluid and subject to change, according to sources, but portends a potentially disappointing final outcome for climate advocates who banked on using the reconciliation bill to implement transformative climate programs.
The figure comes as several Senate Democrats have privately and publicly stressed the need to go big on climate and equity in the upcoming reconciliation bill that is set to be passed without Republican support — and has a zero-vote margin in the Senate.
- Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a longtime Biden ally and fellow Delawarean who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, caused a stir when he first threatened to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure package over funding for water infrastructure.
- Carper ultimately came out in support of the bill with the caveat that he would do so on the condition that more be “done in our upcoming reconciliation bill,” he said in a statement, vowing to “work to get assurances from the White House and Senate leadership to ensure that it includes the policy and the resources we need to take bold, transformative action to invest in climate change and environmental justice.”
- Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) echoed those concerns last week, and the two reiterated these calls in a private Democratic caucus lunch earlier this week, according to congressional aides familiar with the call.
- “As the Senate prepares to consider reconciliation legislation to improve the lives of the American people, it is imperative that our investments directly benefit underserved communities,” Carper, Duckworth, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wrote in a joint statement yesterday. “That is why we urge Senate leadership and the White House to support strong funding and resources to clean up legacy pollution and truly advance environmental justice in the upcoming reconciliation bill.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) revealed that his Energy Committee would be receiving close to $200 billion in the reconciliation package. The figure that suggests the committee will have jurisdiction over one of the biggest climate priorities for activists: the clean energy standard.
- Advocates and progressives worry that with Manchin in control of one of the most important climate priorities, Democrats may wind up with a watered down measure falling short of addressing what they view as an existential crisis.
What's the BIF deal?: Insufficient funding for implementing Biden's climate and environmental justice agenda in the reconciliation bill could cause even more problems for the House passage of the bipartisan infrastructure deal. On the tails of a successful bid to get a moratorium on evictions extended via public pressure on the Biden administration, House liberals will have to decide just how hard they want to push for their priorities to be addressed in a reconciliation bill.
- “With only a three-vote Democratic majority in the House, liberals have leverage, but they will have to decide how hard to push leaders trying to balance their concerns against the concerns of moderate members,” our colleagues Marianna Sotomayor, Sean Sullivan, and Tony Romm report. “Those members’ votes will also be needed to successfully complete the legislative two-step required to get both infrastructure and safety-net spending into law.”
- “The administration has been careful to tend to the needs of liberals when it has drawn their ire, which has bought Biden some goodwill,” our colleagues note.
GET RICH OR DIE MINING: The U.S. Treasury believes that the amendment introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), and Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday to clarify confusion about increased tax compliance for cryptocurrency “brokers” in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will reduce revenue by billions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The measure designed to help pay for the bipartisan package drafted by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) initially drew scrutiny for expanding the definition of cryptocurrency broker to reach individual miners at the heart of the industry. Crypto lobbyists and advocates have been aware of Portman's long running work on a crypto tax bill, and some had provided input on the matter, but were surprised and disappointed by the sudden introduction of the provision earlier this week — and warned that the “pay-for” provision could threaten crypto innovation.
The Wyden-Toomey-Lummis amendment introduced on Wednesday clarifying the definition of broker with language excluding validators, hardware and software crypto wallet makers and developers from the tax reporting provision proposed by Portman. But the amendment could have implications for whether the bipartisan group of senators working on infrastructure spending can find a way to pay for the new spending.
- A person familiar with the matter confirmed that the Treasury Department provided legislative assistance to Portman throughout the drafting process over the last few weeks and fully supported the proposal as a substantial and meaningful way to crack down on tax evasion in the bipartisan deal.
- There will be a “revenue decrease from the kinds of amendments we've seen floating around in the space,” the person familiar added.
(Bit)coin of the realm: If the amendment is included in the final bill, it'll be a sign of the crypto industry's growing influence in Washington.
An informal coalition of companies and nonprofits in the cryptocurrency space banded together this week over their aligned interest in protecting crypto “miners” or “shakers” — actors essential for validating and publishing transactions on the Blockchain — and pressed lawmakers behind the scenes to narrow sweeping language increasing requirements for what crypto brokers have to report to the Internal Revenue Service.
Over 100 stakeholders signed on to a statement urging lawmakers to support the Wyden-Lummis-Toomey amendment:
Toomey, viewed as an ally to the crypto industry in his role as the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, hired a crypto expert from the House to work on the committee this past spring; the two were inundated with calls and emails from industry about Portman's measure this week and worked closely with industry voices to remedy the issue, according to Republican and industry voices involved with the amendment process.
- “Clearly the crypto industry doesn't have the same influence as banking and telecom because it's nascent but look, Coin Center has now been around for seven years and we've been developing relationships,” Jerry Brito, the executive director of the a Washington-based cryptocurrency think tank, told Power Up.
The fracas, however, also exposed Congress's ignorance on the policy matter, in the view of some crypto experts:
- “The infrastructure bill's crypto provision makes no sense; it tries to impose compliance obligations on companies that are genuinely impossible to satisfy,” Robert Leshner, the founder and CEO of Compound Labs, told us. “I'm glad that Senators Wyden, Toomey, and Lummis understand how the technology actually works and proposed an amendment to fix the bill, which I strongly support. The silver lining in all of this is that our legislators are finally learning how passionate and vocal the crypto community is about opposing efforts to strangle crypto innovation in the United States.
📉Notable 📉: “Ongoing regulatory concerns in the U.S. and China have kept some bitcoin buyers on the sidelines, with lower support seen around $34,000 to $36,000,” CoinDesk's Damanick Dantes and Frances Yue report.
Outside the Beltway
BIG BUSINESS EYES VACCINE MANDATES: “Some of the nation’s largest employers, for months reluctant to wade into the fraught issue of whether covid-19 vaccinations should be mandatory for workers, have in recent days been compelled to act as infections have surged again,” the New York Times’ Michael Corkery, Lauren Hirsch, Brooks Barnes and Kellen Browning report.
- “But vaccine hesitancy remains an entrenched and emotionally charged issue inside many American workplaces.”
- “Many companies, already facing staffing shortages, are worried that requiring vaccines could give employees another reason to quit. At the same time, companies are struggling for new ways to encourage workers to get vaccinated after efforts like offering cash bonuses did not boost immunization rates quickly enough.”
- “Much of the remaining hesitancy to vaccines appears to be rooted in a complex mix of politics, cultural beliefs and misinformation that no cash payment or gift certificate from an employer can overcome.”
According to Post data, only 49.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated.
More mandates are on the horizon. “The Biden administration is developing a plan to require nearly all foreign visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated against covid-19 as part of eventually lifting travel restrictions that bar much of the world from entering the United States,” Reuters’ David Shepardson scooped.
- And “Defense Secretary Lloyd T. Austin is expected to seek authorization to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for all active-duty troops as soon as this week, following Biden’s directive that the military examine how and when it could make that happen,” CNN’s Barbara Starr reports.
Meanwhile, a Louisiana lawmaker is urging residents to get vaccinated after her husband died of covid-19. Rep. Julia Letlow’s (R-La.) husband, “Luke, had just been elected to Congress when he got the coronavirus,” CBS News reports. “The two were anxiously awaiting an opportunity to receive a coronavirus vaccine.”
- “He and I had prayed for weeks prior about the possibility of the vaccine, and we were so excited that it was coming out and that it was going to be widely available. And he missed it by two weeks,” Letlow told CBS News’ David Begnaud.
- “He isolated upstairs in their home while she stayed downstairs with their young children. Then, despite having no preexisting conditions, Luke’s health took a turn for the worse.”
- “By about the eighth day, he called me upstairs, and he just said, ‘Honey, I think it’s time to go to the hospital,’” Letlow said. “It was right before Christmas. And I drove him to our hospital here. He cried on the way because he was upset about missing Christmas with his kids.”
“Luke died in December just weeks before he could be sworn into his congressional seat. In March, [Letlow] won that seat in a special election to become the first Republican woman from Louisiana to serve in Congress.”
- “Louisiana is facing its worst surge of covid infections and hospitalizations yet. Letlow looked at the statistics in her own district of north and central Louisiana — which has a low vaccination rate.”
- “She and her team started talking about what they could do to memorialize the stories of covid victims. Together, they created the COVID-19 American History Project Act. The stories will be collected and stored in the Library of Congress.”
In the agencies
THE STATE DEPARTMENT’S ‘WHO DUNNIT’ MYSTERY: “The State Department is investigating the whereabouts of a $5,800 bottle of whiskey the Japanese government gave to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019,” the New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt reports.
- “It was unclear whether Pompeo ever received the gift, as he was traveling in Saudi Arabia on June 24, 2019, the day that Japanese officials gave it to the State Department. Such officials are often insulated by staff members who receive gifts and messages for them.”
- “Pompeo, through his lawyer William A. Burck, said he had no recollection of receiving the bottle of whiskey, and did not have any knowledge of what happened to it or that there was a department inquiry into its whereabouts.”
- “The disclosure about the missing bottle of whiskey is the latest issue to arise about how the State Department operated under Pompeo, who has discussed with aides the possibility of running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.”
Reminder: Under the Constitution, it's illegal for an American official to accept a gift from a foreign government, and gifts are considered property of the U.S. government.
In the media
🗞️ WHAT WE’RE READING:
All eyes on student loans: “A torrent of Congressional Democrats is calling on the White House to extend a soon-expiring pause on federal student loan payments, emboldened by their success in pressuring the Biden administration to approve a new eviction moratorium,” our colleague Tony Romm reports.
- “The current student loan freeze temporarily spares many students from having to make their typical monthly payments and sets their interest rates at zero percent.”
- “The policy dates back to the earliest days of the pandemic, but it is set to conclude at the end of September — meaning students could see bills again starting October 1.”
The GOP’s 2022 headache: “The GOP’s political turmoil over the Jan. 6 insurrection is seeping into the midterm elections,” Politico’s Olivia Beavers, Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick write.
- “House Republican leaders have forcefully condemned the violent Capitol riot by Trump’s supporters. But the GOP campaign arm is now in the uncomfortable position of watching several of its own candidates face sharp questions about their role in the deadly siege that injured scores of police officers.”
- “One of those GOP candidates, Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin, has distanced himself from the violence, saying he left the pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ rally after rioters began breaking into the Capitol and that he never went inside.”
- “But another Republican congressional hopeful, Teddy Daniels in Pennsylvania, posted a video from near the Capitol steps with the caption: ‘I Am Here. God Bless Our Patriots.’”
How Cuomo’s office tried to discredit an accuser: “Days after the first accusation of misconduct surfaced last year against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), his staff began reaching out to a prominent advocate for sexual harassment victims and the head of the largest gay rights group for guidance as they mulled how to discredit his accuser,” our colleagues Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report.
- “Attorney Roberta Kaplan, a co-founder of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, and Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, are now facing questions about their role in Cuomo’s aggressive effort to fight back against his accusers.”
Washington, D.C. Attorney General to require vaccines for employees:
- Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) announced Wednesday that almost all of his office’s 634 employees will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to in-person work on Sept. 13, except those who claim a religious, medical, or emergency-use exemption," DCist's Martin Austermuhle reports.
- “The attorney general's office is the first part of the D.C. government to require COVID-19 vaccines of employees who are returning to the office.”