Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Something Al Gore said in his endorsement of Joe Biden gets to what really matters about Biden’s recent emphasis on climate change — and it stands apart from the changes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is already planning to make to his platform.

Driving the news: Here's part of Gore's interview with the Associated Press yesterday...

  • "He declined to get into the specifics of his policy discussions with Biden or his campaign aides, but he said Biden already has the right focus and has expressed a willingness to make climate action his 'top priority'" (emphasis added).
  • Similarly, yesterday's New York Times piece on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's endorsement of Biden says it came after "extensive private conversations in which Mr. Biden signaled he would make fighting climate change a central cause of his administration."

My thought bubble: If Biden wins, the way he deploys his political capital and administrative focus will matter more than how his policy platform might get stronger.

  • That's because Biden's existing plan is already more expansive than what's likely to clear Congress — even if Democrats somehow eke out a narrow Senate majority — or survive an increasingly conservative judiciary.
  • So a bigger thing to watch is how much — and how fast — Biden might muster the strength of his political, diplomatic and administrative apparatus to enact new policies.
  • It's related to what we've noted repeatedly in this newsletter: The much-discussed gap between Biden's climate plan and Bernie Sanders' platform shrinks when you consider what could get through Congress and what executive steps would survive court challenges.

Flashback: In 2009, the Obama administration and Senate Democrats prioritized sweeping health care legislation over trying to pass a big climate bill, which was already a steep climb.

  • Attempts to move emissions-capping legislation collapsed in the Senate in mid-2010 without even coming up for a vote.

Catch up fast: Biden is vowing tougher steps on climate, saying this week that he plans to bolster provisions on environmental justice, medium-term targets, and clean energy investments.

  • Gore also said Biden "has asked him to 'engage in an ongoing dialogue' to 'strengthen his climate platform considerably.'"
  • And don't forget that Biden is also forming a task force on climate with Sanders.

Go deeper

House committee subpoenas Pompeo for records on Biden investigations

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Friday subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for records related to the State Department's involvement in attempts to link former Vice President Joe Biden to corruption in Ukraine.

Why it matters: Engel alleges that Pompeo has turned over similar documents to Senate Republicans but not House Democrats and claims that he "has turned the State Department into an arm of the Trump campaign" by using its resources to attempt to investigate Biden.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 31, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The stage is set for a battle on sustainable investing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's hardly the biggest regulatory fight of the Trump era, but there's an important battle raging over plans to restrict sustainable investing that also distills the energy and climate politics of the moment.

Driving the news: The Labor Department is planning to limit private retirement plan managers' leeway to invest based on ESG — environmental, social and governance — factors.

Sanders endorses ending filibuster to pass voting rights legislation

Bernie Sanders during a Democratic Party presidential debate in March. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday agreed with former President Obama's proposal to eliminate the Senate filibuster in order to pass the Voting Rights Act.

Why it matters: Sanders rejected abolishing the filibuster during the third Democratic primary debate in September 2o19, suggesting that congressional Democrats could instead pass progressive policies by attaching them to budget reconciliation bills, which cannot be filibustered by the minority party, according to Senate rules.