Jun 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

White House sells infrastructure deal amid green angst

Illustration of a watering can watering a flower made out of paper.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House is trying to build support for clean energy and climate pieces of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure outline at a time when activists are calling the plan far too modest.

Why it matters: The White House faces growing urgency to corral progressive lawmakers now that President Biden has abandoned threats to veto the plan unless a much larger, Democrats-only package moves too.

Driving the news: The sales pitch ramped up on several fronts Monday.

  • Biden wrote an op-ed touting clean energy and climate provisions while acknowledging it's missing some "critical" climate pieces that he "intends" to pass under the Democrats' separate reconciliation plan.
  • Two top White House aides, in a public memo, highlight the plan's $49 billion for public transit, $15 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure and buses, and $73 billion in grid investments, among various other provisions.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki opened her briefing by claiming the plan would make "unprecedented strides in climate and clean energy leadership" — while also emphasizing that Biden wants to go further.

The big picture: The efforts aim to promote much more than environmental provisions. Biden and his aides are talking up the measure's spending on road, broadband, ports and more.

  • But Democrats who prioritize global warming are among Biden's needed constituencies in the fraught climb to get a deal through both chambers of Congress.
  • On Monday activists with the Sunrise Movement, joined by progressive lawmakers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, rallied near the White House under the banner of "no climate, no deal."
  • Even beyond Sunrise, which is on the green movement's left flank, more Democratic-aligned groups like the League of Conservation Voters and Evergreen Action are pushing for big measures in a reconciliation plan.

Yes, but: White House officials are trying to navigate all kinds of political crosscurrents.

  • The infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package both face huge political hurdles (and neither bill even exists yet). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has powerful leverage over the bipartisan framework, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
  • The White House and Capitol Hill Democratic leaders face a thicket of competing interests — on both spending levels and policy — even within their party's ranks as they craft a separate reconciliation package.
  • A Wall Street Journal story last night explored concerns among Democratic lawmakers in natural gas-producing states about proposals to curb reliance on natural gas.

What's next: Biden will pitch the infrastructure plan in a Wisconsin speech later today.

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