The shot across the bow from the LCV Action Fund sets up what's expected to be a tense standoff between progressive and moderate Democrats over the budget bill that could amount to the largest spending package in U.S. history. The group is taking a hard line in the run-up to Sept. 27 — the deadline House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) set to begin debate over the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate.
Progressive lawmakers and outside groups weren't happy the bipartisan infrastructure package excluded most green provisions. So they're focusing on the budget blueprint to hit the Biden administration's goals of halving carbon emissions by 2030 and speeding the shift to 100 percent clean energy by 2035. They see it is a litmus test for Democratic priorities heading into the 2022 midterms.
The press for lawmakers to support climate provisions ranging from $577 billion to $746 billion, as outlined by influential climate groups earlier this week, also comes amid a series of weather disasters.
- “As our nation is rocked by devastating storms, floods, heat, fires, and droughts, long-standing environmental and racial injustice, and economic inequality, you have a once in a generation opportunity to act on climate at the scale that science and justice require,” per a letter signed by LCV President Gene Karpinski. “It is our fervent hope and expectation that this legislation will enable our nation to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030 — a goal supported by science and embraced by the President.”
- “That is why, for only the second time in our history, [LCV] … has decided that we will only consider endorsements for members of Congress in the 2022 election cycle or their next election who support the necessary provisions and a final reconciliation package that achieve this goal.”
- Notable: “Nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster in the past three months, according to a new Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations. On top of that, 64 percent live in places that experienced a multiday heat wave — phenomena that are not officially deemed disasters but are considered the most dangerous form of extreme weather,” The Post's Sarah Kaplan and Andrew Ba Tran reported over the weekend.
LCV issued its first political ultimatum in 2009 when it called on House members to support sweeping climate legislation introduced by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) that would have established a cap-and-trade system limiting the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted nationwide.
- Tiernan Sittenfeld, the LCV's senior vice president of government affairs, said while the group is “pleased” with Biden's executive actions on climate, “they absolutely have to be coupled with transformational legislation — especially as we head into international climate negotiations in Glasgow later this year. This legislation is Congress and the administration's once in a generation opportunity to act on climate at the scale that science and justice require.”
So far, LCV Action fund has backed a slate of candidates, including endangered incumbents like Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). They've also issued a handful of special House election endorsements with more to come.
Sittenfeld expressed optimism that Democrats will ultimately support the LCV's preferred policies, like the $150 billion Clean Electricity Payment Program and $37 billion to $120 billion for clean vehicle tax credits. But moderate Democrats have already sounded skepticism about the overall price tag and pay fors.
- The intraparty cracks started to publicly show when last week during a hearing when, our colleague Tony Romm reports, “a key climate-focused House panel led by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) began its work to consider how to spend roughly $30 billion to stem the deadly consequences of global warming. Democrats have said they hope to reverse years of underinvestment in the environment, but their new reconciliation efforts have raised some early concerns among panel moderates, especially about the cost.”
🚨: That might be in part why Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) sent a letter last week to Pelosi, obtained by Power Up, asking that “provisions in the bill that increase deficits should be offset, with the possible exception of measures to combat climate change, in light of the fact that cost estimates prepared by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation do not adequately account for the future costs associated with inaction on the climate crisis.”
- “We were willing to vote for trillions of dollars in emergency spending in 2020 and early 2021, virtually none of which was paid for, in order to address the severe health and economic consequences of COVID-19. We support additional investments in our country, but will insist they be paid for,” Murphy and Cuellar write.
- Context: LCV endorsed Cuellar's primary challenger, Jessica Cisneros, in 2020. She is again mounting a primary challenge to Cuellar this election cycle.
- Non-negotiable: Murphy and Cuellar also request that the key spending and revenue provisions in the bill be “pre-conferenced” with the Senate: “We do not support a process whereby we approve a bill in the House, only to see the bill undergo significant changes in the Senate, and then have to vote on the bill again in revised form,” they write.
BIDEN’S S.O.S.: “The White House budget office Tuesday sent Congress an ‘urgent’ spending request asking for tens of billions of dollars in natural disaster relief and Afghanistan resettlement funding as the administration tries to respond to both emergencies,” our Post colleague Jeff Stein reports.
- “The White House is asking for $14 billion in aid to respond to natural disasters that occurred before Hurricane Ida, as well as $6.4 billion to pay for the ongoing relocation of tens of thousands of Afghans who partnered with the United States during the war in Afghanistan.”
- “The administration anticipates that another $10 billion will have to be approved in disaster relief for Hurricane Ida, as well.”
- “As part of the request, White House Office of Management and Budget acting director Shalanda Young called for Congress to approve a short-term extension in government funding so that there isn’t a partial government shutdown Oct. 1.”
🏃♀️Full sprint ahead. “Those special requests will increase the political pain for any lawmaker planning to oppose the funding patch Congress needs to pass this month,” Politico’s Caitlin Emma writes.
- “Top Democrats have also been flirting with the idea of adding action on the debt limit to that package, a move that would further squeeze Republicans who have pledged zero cooperation as the Treasury Department nears a breaking point on the nation’s borrowing limit.”
- “The combination would present a triple threat, daring GOP lawmakers to go on record in opposition to aid for disaster-hit communities, staving off a debt default that could throw financial markets into chaos and preventing a government shutdown.”
And history tells us this just might work: It’s 2017, “lawmakers were set to return to Washington in September staring down the twin barrels of a potential debt ceiling breach and government shutdown, while various external crises — including devastating hurricanes — buffeted a first-year president with sagging approval ratings,” Roll Call’s Peter Cohn writes.
- “Unless Congress gave the Treasury Department more borrowing authority, it wouldn’t be able to pay all of Uncle Sam’s bills past Sept. 29. And on Oct. 1, without a stopgap appropriations bill, all but the most essential government functions, to protect human life and property, would cease.”
- “But conservative Republicans were itching for a fight over spending, and then-minority Democrats weren’t about to bail out GOP leaders and clear the decks for then-president Donald Trump’s tax cuts.”
- “Then Hurricane Harvey battered Houston — the first of three massive storms in quick succession, including Irma and later Maria. Trump soon cut a deal with Democratic leaders to package a stopgap funding bill and debt ceiling suspension through Dec. 8 with initial Harvey and Irma relief.”
Long story short: “Democratic leaders now in the majority just need 10 Senate Republicans to get out of their current debt limit jam, and Hurricane Ida might be the ticket.”
On K Street
WHAT AKIN GUMP’S CLIENTS ARE READING: What’s actually in the infrastructure bill that passed the Senate last month? The lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is sending a 30-page memo to clients this morning outlining the finer points of the legislation, from all the battery grant programs it authorizes to how much money there is for brownfield remediation ($1.2 billion).
Here’s the full memo.
FIRST IN POWER UP: The K Street firm Invariant — which has seen its lobbying revenue climb sharply in the Biden era — has made added Bill McQuillen to its communications and public affairs team. McQuillen, who was previously an executive vice president at Burson Cohn & Wolfe, will work in tandem with the firm’s lobbyists.
On the Hill
A TEXAS BATTLE, A WASHINGTON SHOWDOWN: “Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Tuesday signed a sweeping bill overhauling the state’s elections, capping a dramatic, months-long national saga over voting rights with a new Republican-led law that will sharply restrict voting across the nation’s second-biggest state,” the New York Times’s Nick Corasaniti reports.
- “… the election bill in particular follows a national trend, with Republican-controlled legislatures in 18 states having passed more than 30 laws this year restricting access to voting.
- “That includes 11 states — nine of which supported Trump in 2020 — that only imposed restrictions and seven other states that both restricted and expanded voting access,” per our colleague Elise Viebeck.
FORMER ILLINOIS SENATOR DEAD AT 90: “Adlai E. Stevenson III, a scion of generations of Illinois Democrats, who shared the names and presidential ambitions of his father and great-grandfather but not their political successes, serving a decade in the Senate and losing two races for governor, died on Monday at his home in Chicago,” the New York Times’s Robert D. McFadden reports. “He was 90.”
STRONGER: “Britney Spears’ father, James P. Spears, who agreed earlier this summer to eventually step down from his own role in the conservatorship that has overseen her finances and controlled much of her life since 2008, filed a petition on Tuesday asking the court to ‘now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required,’” per the New York Times’s Julia Jacobs.
- “The filing comes after a wave of public support for the pop star generated by the release of an Emmy-nominated documentary, Framing Britney Spears, and the publication of a bombshell article in The New Yorker diving into the mechanisms of the conservatorship,” the Daily Beast’s AJ McDougall writes.
HOW 9/11 CHANGED MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.) speak with our colleague Rhonda Colvin about how that day changed the course of their careers.