Aug 10, 2022 - Podcasts

What's in the most important climate bill in U.S. history

The massive climate, tax and health care bill that Senate democrats passed over the weekend is expected to go to the House for a vote on Friday. If passed as is, the bill will become the largest climate legislation ever passed by Congress, and will invest roughly $370 billion in renewable energy, electric vehicles and other climate programs.

  • Plus: the Senate’s spending bill leaves states on their own to ease the burden of childcare costs.
  • And: the great Serena Williams’ next chapter.

Guests: Axios' Ben Geman and Dana Goldstein, national correspondent at the New York Times.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, August 10th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: states try to ease the burden of high childcare costs. Plus: the next chapter for Serena Williams.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: Congress on the brink of passing the most important climate bill in history.

NIALA: The massive climate, tax and healthcare bill that Senate Democrats passed over the weekend is expected to go to the house for a vote on Friday. And if it's passed as is this bill will become the largest climate legislation ever passed by Congress. It will invest roughly $370 billion dollars into renewable energy, electric vehicles and other climate programs. Here to help us dig deeper on what this bill will do is Axios’ energy reporter Ben Geman. Hey Ben!

BEN GEMAN: Hey, how's it going.

NIALA: Ben so I mentioned a few things here. How would this bill actually combat climate change?

BEN: The biggest thing in this legislation is this huge kind of basket of either new or significantly extended and expanded tax incentives for developing all sorts of low carbon energy, wind and solar power, geothermal power, other sorts of renewables. On the transportation side a really big thing is that you've got this big increase in tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles right. It's a really broad brush approach. You know, another big thing is new and expanded tax credits for basically making your home a lot greener, whether that's purchase of a heat pump or more efficient appliances or other types of energy efficiency related efforts. Um, so several analysts have said that when you tack on all these provisions to existing policies, that should bring us emissions. roughly 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. So that doesn't get us all the way to President Biden's pledge under the Paris agreement of a 50% cut, but it certainly brings things a heck of a lot closer than they would be without this legislation.

NIALA: In order to build this entire green energy infrastructure, this is gonna require a lot of workers. And I wonder how you think that's gonna fit into the current labor market.

BEN: That's a really good question because some clean technology sectors are already finding some challenges with this tight labor market. And so, you know, some of the early estimates that I've seen suggest that if all goes well, you know, if this scale up of different types of clean energy truly does come to pass, that there could be upwards of, you know, perhaps 900,000 jobs created annually over the next say decade or so. Uh, you know, that's a lot of people. And so, you know, some of the sources that I've been talking to have been saying that it's going to be very important, that educational institutions, uh, state local and federal officials, other stakeholders really get on the same page in terms of job training and apprenticeships and other aspects of just sort of really preparing the workforce for this legislation.

NIALA: Ben, you mentioned the Paris climate agreement. If this bill passes, how much do you think it goes towards repairing the American relationship on the global stage when it comes to working towards climate change reduction?

BEN: So I think there is a lot of hope here that the passage of this legislation will help give the United States credibility on its climate change ambitions, right? So you've already had President Biden come out and say, look, the U.S. pledges to cut our emissions by 50%, you know, by the end of this decade. But that pledge is really sort of a paper tiger without, you know, aggressive legislation behind it. And so now the U.S. can say, “hey, we're putting weight behind our pledge under the agreement.” And so I think a lot of people are hoping that this gives the U.S. credibility and more leverage to push other large emitting and polluting countries to get more aggressive in their climate efforts as well.

NIALA: Ben Geman is an Axios energy reporter. Thanks, Ben.

BEN: Thanks so much for having me on.

NIALA: In a moment: how some states are stepping in to help parents with the high cost of childcare.

States try to ease the burden of high childcare costs

NIALA: Welcome Back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Even before the pandemic parents in the U.S. were struggling with the high cost and low availability of childcare. And when the pandemic worsened that crisis Democrats vowed to bolster support for parents. According to the Treasury Department, 60% of American families who need childcare can't afford it. But support for childcare was ultimately left out of that massive bill that was passed in the Senate over the weekend. So where does that leave parents and caregivers? Dana Goldstein is a national correspondent with the New York Times and has been reporting on this. Dana first, why was childcare left off the Inflation Reduction Act? What happened?

DANA GOLDSTEIN: The short answer to that question is just that Senator Manchin of West Virginia, of course the key centrist Democrat in this process, did not want all these different child-related elements to be included in the bill. He said, you know, as early as last year that he felt there was just too much going on in President Biden's original Build Back Better plan. There was the continuation of the monthly child tax credits. There was infant care, toddler care, preschool, parental leave, and he wanted the price tag of the bill to come down. And as a result of this, none of it ended up making it in.

NIALA: How are states stepping in then to fill some of these gaps?

DANA: We're really seeing two buckets of approaches, depending on whether the state is more conservative or more liberal. Some of the more liberal states like New Jersey, like New Mexico, like Colorado are pursuing pay raises for childcare providers and more state subsidies to create more affordable childcare spots for families that need care for their kids. There's another, um, approach that more conservative states are taking, which is notable. I mean, even many red states have acknowledged the crisis, but are taking that classic conservative approach of cutting regulations. So for example, in Iowa, they are raising the group size so more children can be in the classroom. Even, um, you know, very little kids, two or three. And they're also making it so that 16 year olds are qualified to provide care on their own without adult supervision, as long as the children are five and up.

NIALA: And Dana, how do things look in terms of the labor market for childcare?

DANA: So, about 10% of the nation's childcare centers closed during the pandemic. So there really is an even deeper supply problem now than there was. Another really big problem facing the sector and a reason why a lot of states are raising pay, is that many childcare workers are simply leaving the field because of these labor shortages across the broader economy. They can earn more say in fast food or working behind a cash register in the retail sector, and some are able to, you know, get office jobs right now. So, it's very difficult for centers to hold on, um, to that quality stable workforce that parents want and parents are looking for when they enroll their kids in care.

NIALA: So where does that leave parents and caregivers when we're thinking about how this is sort of a patchwork solution across the country?

DANA: I think that's right. I mean, both Republicans and Democrats I spoke to who see this as a crisis were quite frank that without a big sort of federal approach here, these are band-aids, that will probably not vastly bring down costs, raise pay, or increase supply, you know, but it didn't make it into reconciliation. So I think now the focus really has returned to those state houses to see how creative state legislatures can be and governors and how aggressive.

NIALA: Dana Goldstein is the national correspondent for the New York Times and we'll include a link to her reporting in our show notes. Thanks, Dana.

DANA: Thanks for having me.

Tennis great Serena Williams announces retirement

NIALA: One final headline before we end today: Tennis great Serena Williams announced yesterday that she plans to retire sometime after the upcoming U.S. Open. Those of you who are close listeners know what a huge tennis fan I am, and I am the biggest fan of Serena’s, so I honestly don’t know how to sum up a career as storied as hers. She’s widely viewed as one of the best players ever, male or female, and when people say trailblazer, she and her sister, Venus, truly changed the sport for black athletes. In an Instagram post yesterday she said it was “time to move in a different direction,” and that she wants to focus on being a mom - her spiritual goals and discovering a different Serena.

In a first-person essay for Vogue she wrote "If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family,” and then she said “maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. "

Serena, thanks for everything, as always, we’ll be watching.

I’m Niala Boodhoo, thanks for listening, stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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