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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate's on the cusp of debating a big energy and climate package that says plenty about today's political and scientific moment.

Catch up fast: Text of the bipartisan infrastructure plan isn't out yet, but a summary in circulation and releases from lawmakers and the White House offer contours of the proposal.

  • The Senate voted 67-32 earlier this week to move closer to formal debate on the bill, which has provisions to modernize power grids, deploy EV charging and more.

The big picture: Here's a few takeaways ahead of the arrival of the actual bill text...

We're in a new era in terms of both the size of Beltway proposals and the urgency of dealing with the scope of the climate problem.

  • The plan's combined energy, climate and mass transit provisions are together way larger than the $90 billion in the 2009 rescue package, at the time the biggest U.S. investments ever in these areas.
  • But the Earth's climate doesn't really care about that kind of comparison. Climate change is already having a host of calamitous consequences. This bill contains a down payment on larger investments and incentives likely necessary for the U.S. share of emissions cuts needed to keep Paris Agreement goals viable.
  • Democrats hope to move much more sweeping provisions on a party-line basis via the budget reconciliation process, such as a "clean energy standard" (CES) that would accelerate power sector decarbonization and big EV purchase incentives, to name just two goals.
  • A new post from the Breakthrough Institute calls for going further, but notes: "[A] bipartisan infrastructure bill of this magnitude would itself have been considered implausible before 2020."

It tells us something about the GOP's posture. Republicans generally oppose the more expensive and prescriptive (hello, CES and methane fees) stuff Democrats want to move via reconciliation.

  • But a number of GOP lawmakers support measures aimed at speeding demonstration and deployment of emerging tech.
  • Provisions in the bipartisan plan include billions of dollars around direct air capture, clean hydrogen, and carbon sequestration infrastructure.

It's time to seriously start managing consequences. The bill has a lot on hardening infrastructure, ecosystems and communities against effects of climate change that are already here and slated to worsen.

  • Per the White House, the resiliency measures add up to tens of billions of dollars.

Go deeper

Sep 21, 2021 - Health

Democrats' case for prioritizing health care policies

Expand chart
Reproduced from Hart Research Associates; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care advocates are making the case that the pieces of Democrats' legislative agenda that lower health care costs and expand coverage are the most popular with voters — and should thus be prioritized.

Why it matters: Democrats are trying to figure out what topline spending number they have to work with for their reconciliation package. The lower that number goes, the more the party will have to cut from the package.

Sep 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop - Manchin: Delay Biden plan to '22

Sen. Joe Manchin walks through the Capitol Visitor Center last week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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