Feb 20, 2019

The Green New Deal is fueling a wild Democratic policy primary

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at March For TPS Justice rally. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats' efforts to craft climate and energy policy heading into the 2020 elections are very fluid, creating space for new ideas and the risk of chaos that leaves them lacking a clear agenda.

Why it matters: Political windows for big emissions policies open rarely, and the early efforts to craft an agenda follow major scientific findings on the dangers of unchecked warming.

The big picture: There are several forces behind this open landscape, including...

  • There's pent-up interest among House Democrats, but leadership is not necessarily in-step with the insurgent progressives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lukewarm response to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal (GND) demonstrates that tension.
  • The big Democratic primary field lacks a clear front-runner, so in effect there will be a bunch of boutique policy shops operating separately that will seek to create ideas that stand out.
  • There's a new set of policy think tanks and advocacy groups backing the party's insurgent left flank.

Where it stands: With Washington largely stuck until at least after the 2020 election, there are lots of wonky efforts to shape policies that would be ready for launch if...

  • Democrats regain the White House and the Senate (but even then, Senate rules create massive hurdles).
  • The stars somehow align for a climate deal that can attract a small but critical mass of Senate Republicans.

What we're hearing: Advice is flying in from all angles...

1. Joseph Aldy, a former Obama aide now at Harvard, states in The Conversation that the 2009 stimulus — the big green investment vehicle of its time — holds lessons for the GND.

2. Ramez Naam writes a lengthy piece for TechCrunch that looks at what Democrats could push without a filibuster-proof majority (which they're highly unlikely to have). Killing the filibuster would open more options but the appetite is highly uncertain.

3. Martin Wolf explains in the Financial Times why a carbon tax, which lots of economists like, won't be nearly enough.

  • Wolf sees space for linking it to some ideas in the GND, which he also finds incomplete. "The Green New Deal recognises the need for regulatory intervention and infrastructure investment. Unfortunately, it places no weight on incentives at all," Wolf writes.
  • Quick take: Expect to hear more of this discussion. While it's true that taxes have buy-in from a handful of Republicans, a carbon price would probably have to be extremely high — untenably high — to yield very steep emissions cuts.
  • As the UN science panel's big report last year noted, "While an explicit carbon pricing mechanism is central to prompt mitigation scenarios compatible with 1.5°C pathways, a complementary mix of stringent policies is required."
  • But the politics here are daunting, because conservatives pushing carbon taxes see them largely replacing regulations and mandates.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 p.m. ET: 721,817 — Total deaths: 33,968 — Total recoveries: 151,204.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 11 p.m. ET: 142,328 — Total deaths: 2,489 — Total recoveries: 4,767.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health