Sep 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats tie climate to wider agenda

an illustration of earths colliding with the capitol building

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate's top Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is throwing his weight behind an economic message that ties climate to goals around racial justice, income inequality, labor rights and a lot more.

Why it matters: The broad resolution — which includes calls for investments in low-carbon energy and infrastructure — previews Democrats' political posture if they regain the majority and have a chance to legislate.

Driving the news: Schumer is co-sponsoring the new resolution that's a call to "Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy," or THRIVE.

  • Schumer, at the resolution's rollout event, said the U.S. is experiencing a "collision of crises" — the pandemic, the economic crisis, climate change and racial injustices.
  • "We can't play whack-a-mole with these crises, we can't pick one alone to focus on," Schumer said.
  • The bicameral plan has over 80 co-sponsors, and backers include the Sierra Club, the Movement for Black Lives, and the Service Employees International Union.

Between the lines: Like the Green New Deal, the new House and Senate resolution is a big and vague thing that tells us little about policy specifics, but plenty about the politics of the moment.

  • It reflects the increasing efforts among progressives to link climate and environmental policy to battling systemic racism and inequalities — including the disproportionate pollution burdens facing people of color.
  • There's plenty there for organized labor too. One section endorses the union-backed "Protecting the Right to Organize Act" and other steps to expand labor power.
  • But, it remains to be seen how much this very intersectional framing of their climate message might affect chances of moving big policies if a political window opens, and how it might translate into more detailed legislation.

Quick take: It's the latest example that Democrats understand big new steps on climate would probably need to hitch a ride with other priorities.

  • As we wrote here, Joe Biden has tethered his proposal for $2 trillion in climate-related investments to his wider economic recovery plan.
  • Or go back a decade, when Democrats frequently argued that the big climate bill they tried to move through Congress would help ease dependence on oil imports.
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