Mar 7, 2019

Climate change rhetoric heats up in the Senate, but legislating will be much harder

Sunrise Movement climate protestors at Sen. Mitch McConnell's office. Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Republicans and Democrats staged a rhetorical war over climate change on the Senate floor yesterday, but it was just a theatrical preview of more consequential battles to come.

Where it stands: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to put his opponents in a political bind over the Green New Deal resolution, which has uncertain Democratic support. Democrats are countering with attacks on GOP rejection of mainstream climate science and what they call the party's absence of effective ideas.

  • ABC News captures the action here, and Politico breaks down what's going on in this story.

The big picture: 2 things on my radar look at questions that will confront lawmakers if a window for actual legislation opens post-2020 election.

1. A Columbia University energy think tank published a new paper that offers a framework for considering policies that are either complementary or redundant with a tax on emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes.

They found "complementary" policies to a potential carbon tax include...

  • Ending fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Regulating emissions that aren't covered by the tax.
  • Appliance energy efficiency standards.
  • Public investment in low-carbon infrastructure.
  • Funding for technology R&D.

They found the "redundant" policies include...

  • Regulation of emissions already subject to the tax.
  • Other fuel taxes.
  • State-level carbon pricing.

Between the lines: Keeping costs in check while maximizing emissions cuts is part of the debate on policy.

Politically, there's a school of thought that says if there's ever going to be a big climate deal, it would involve a carbon tax tethered to paring back regulations.

  • Those are two pillars of the plan from the Climate Leadership Council and its advocacy offshoot, which are backed by some oil majors and other big companies.
  • But that said, the energy on the left has moved away from emphasis on pricing as a primary tool, which brings me to...

2. The filibuster battle is heating up.

What's happening: The Associated Press' Elana Schor reports that some liberal advocates are using the Democratic primary fight to argue that big things like Medicare for All can't happen with a 60-vote threshold.

  • Some of the field is supportive or leaning towards agreeing the filibuster should be killed, while others want to keep it or, like Sen. Kamala Harris, are conflicted.

Why it matters: Even if Democrats take full control of Washington, nobody thinks they'll have close to 60 Senate seats.

  • This can't be untethered from climate. A number of candidates are supporting the GND concept and calling for aggressive policies.

What's next: If Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's climate-focused presidential run gains traction, this could come up even more. He wants to see the filibuster done away with, and a campaign aide tells me it's something he'll keep talking about.

Go deeper: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal gets first fight in Senate

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.