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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The infrastructure drama enveloping Capitol Hill could spill onto the global climate stage.

Why it matters: Major new U.S. investments and policies could help spur other nations to take more aggressive and tangible steps to cut emissions. But failure to steer major new initiatives through Congress could hinder the White House diplomatic posture as the U.N. conference looms.

State of play: The White House is negotiating with Republicans amid all kinds of uncertainty over whether Democrats can pass legislation without GOP backing.

  • President Biden has proposed major investments in electric vehicles, grid tech, mass transit, clean energy tax incentives and many other initiatives.
  • The negotiations with Republicans — who object to the plan's steep price tag and expansive definition of infrastructure — come ahead of November's critical United Nations climate summit.

What they're saying: "Because of the importance of American leadership on climate, the rest of the world is definitely watching what happens on Capitol Hill," said the Environmental Defense Fund's Nathaniel Keohane.

  • Keohane, who leads EDF's climate program, said major U.S. investments will bolster the country's economy and competitiveness. But they're also consequential internationally, he said.
  • "The more the U.S. can demonstrate leadership — not only in the ambition of its targets but in the ambition of its implementation and the seriousness of its implementation — the more likely we are to see the rest of the world stepping into its ambition and accelerating its own climate action," he said.

Catch up fast: In April the White House set a voluntary target under the Paris Agreement of cutting U.S. emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.But that's much harder to achieve absent Capitol Hill approval of new investments and incentives.

  • The Atlantic Council's Margaret Jackson said Biden's climate initiatives thus far have borne some fruit, pointing to several nations strengthening their Paris targets.
  • But Jackson, who has written about the importance of congressional action, also tells Axios: "U.S. allies and partners are still somewhat skeptical in terms of how much this administration can really accomplish, and will it be lasting."

What's next: Biden is slated to speak today with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead Republican on infrastructure negotiations.

  • Democrats can push their plan through budget reconciliation — the process that enables certain revenue and spending measures to pass with a simple majority Senate vote.
  • Those prospects in the 50-50 Senate are far from certain. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are cool to using reconciliation.
  • Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told ABC News yesterday that Biden will keep seeking a bipartisan deal, but added, "If we don't get there, then we'll consider other options."

Go deeper

Manchin "confident" in infrastructure package compromise

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is "confident" the White House and Senate Republicans will reach a compromise on the infrastructure package in the coming days, he told Fox News Sunday.

Why it matters: Considered one of the Democrats most crucial to the success of the president's legislative agenda, Manchin's remarks come after recent setbacks in negotiations between President Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the GOP's lead negotiator, Politico reports.

Jun 5, 2021 - World

Two big tests: Climate and vaccines

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Ahead of his first foreign trip this coming week, President Biden made a long-awaited announcement about how the U.S. will share its excess vaccines with the world.

  • The 80 million doses Biden has promised to donate before the end of this month are a fraction of the total U.S. supply — but nonetheless five times more than any other country has pledged, according to White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients.

Why it matters: The pivot from vaccine hoarder to global supplier could be the most important foreign policy move Biden makes this year.

Jun 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate returns to recess leftovers

President Biden listens as Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer speaks during an event on the American Rescue Plan in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 12. Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP via Getty Images)

The Senate returns Tuesday to a full slate of negotiations Congress failed to complete before blowing town for Memorial Day.

Driving the news: Next steps on a Jan. 6 commission will compete with infrastructure talks, police reform and a China-focused package on U.S. competitiveness.

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