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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House is sending increasingly strong signals it will push for a zero-carbon power mandate in the energy and social safety net package Democrats hope to pass using filibuster-proof budget reconciliation rules.

Driving the news: President Biden, in a speech Wednesday, called for the policy that would require emissions-free electricity to provide a significantly growing share of power company sales.

  • "I want to set a clean electric standard that moves us to a fully clean and reliable grid," he said in Illinois.

Why it matters: Passing a "clean energy standard" (CES) would help advance Biden's goal of 100% carbon-free U.S. power by 2035.

The big picture: OK, so it's not news that the White House wants a CES in infrastructure legislation.

  • But, well, they want all kinds of things! What's notable is that lately, the White House has been getting much more vocal about the CES.
  • Last Tuesday top aides Gina McCarthy and Anita Dunn listed it among the priorities, and on Wednesday McCarthy called it one of the "bottom lines" for the reconciliation plan.
  • Biden's speech on Wednesday may be the first time he's publicly name-checked the policy since it was included in the big infrastructure wish-list the White House released in March.

The intrigue: How exactly backers will craft a plan to comply with reconciliation, which is designed for spending and revenue measures.

  • The Washington Examiner reports that Democrats may set annual clean power targets for utilities to hit.
  • "If utilities hit these targets, they would get financial support from the federal government. If they do not, they would face penalties," it reports.

What we're watching: Whether the votes are there. Sen. Joe Manchin has been skeptical of a CES, though his office did not respond to an inquiry yesterday about his current thinking.

And a CES would likely need to credit for nuclear power and natural gas with CO2 capture (which is not yet a thing commercially) to win over moderates, but some activists groups oppose those sources.

Go deeper

Focus group: Child tax credit expansion divides swing voters

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some swing voters say the most important elements to preserve in Democrats' massive social spending package are the ones that would lower prescription drug costs, reduce pollution and make childcare or pre-K free or more affordable.

Yes, but: Considerably less popular among Trump-to-Biden voters: Extending the expanded child tax credit to 2025.

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."