Jan 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The steep climb to get climate measures passed in slimmed-down bill

Illustration of a man pushing an globe up a mountain.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Within a day of President Biden backing efforts to move a smaller version of his stalled spending plan that still includes robust climate investments, signs emerged of the high hurdles Democrats face.

Catch up fast: Biden floated trying to move "big chunks" of the plan, bowing to the reality that Sen. Joe Manchin — whose vote is needed for Democrats' plans — is a hard "no" on the current $1.75 trillion framework, among other hurdles.

  • The president, at a press conference Wednesday, suggested there's support for the proposal's $500 billion-plus in clean energy and climate measures.

Yes, but: Any new effort to win the 50 Senate votes needed to move a package under filibuster-proof reconciliation rules would be very difficult.

  • Manchin told reporters in the Capitol yesterday that any negotiations would be "starting from scratch." He said, "we're going to start with a clean sheet of paper and start over," and signaled he's got other priorities.
  • Bloomberg reports that many Democrats aren't willing to abandon an extension of the expired child tax credit, even though Democratic leaders have not offered a version that Manchin backs.
  • And despite Biden saying the plan could be split up, the calendar and the likelihood of Democrats losing control of Congress means there may be only one more chance to move a major package.
  • "This is a reconciliation bill. So when people say let's divide it up...No, they don't understand the process," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters yesterday.

Between the lines: Capital Alpha Partners' James Lucier sees better than even odds that something will pass that's focused on health care and includes clean energy components — but not a half-trillion-dollars worth.

  • "We do think that investors can count on the $200 billion in core clean energy tax credits that [Build Back Better] contains," he said in a note.

Why it matters: Achieving steep cuts in U.S. emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases this decade likely requires lots of help from Congress.

What we don't know: One big question is what kind of final agreement could even emerge on the climate provisions.

  • For instance, Manchin has objected to provisions that would provide much larger consumer tax credits for union-made electric vehicles.
Go deeper