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Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Rudy Sulgan and Anton Petrus

The last 24 hours have somehow been confusing and clarifying about the state of major climate legislation at the same time.

Catch up fast: Last night House Democratic leaders, facing a revolt from progressives, put off a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package for now.

  • White House aides and Democrats are negotiating the scope of the separate Democrats-only package of social and climate measures, and the progressives won't back the bipartisan plan until that's done.

The big picture: Everything remains in flux, but here are a few takeaways based on what we know as of this morning...

Democrats' climate vision will be downsized. Sen. Joe Manchin dug in Thursday on his insistence that $1.5 billion is the max he'll accept in the catch-all, Democrats-only social safety net and clean energy package.

  • It's highly unlikely a politically viable plan could match robust energy incentives and spending in the $3.5 trillion House plan.
  • The House package includes, for instance, electric vehicle incentives up to $12,500 per buyer and a major new program of financial support for utilities to boost clean power.
  • "We think the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) would likely be the first element to go in the transition to a smaller bill," Capital Alpha Partners said in a note.

Manchin's policy goals are a little clearer. A late July document Politico obtained shows Manchin's posture in finer strokes, such as wanting means-testing for new health and social provisions and other constraints.

  • He offered details on climate, saying he wants policies to be "fuel neutral," and that if renewable power tax credits are extended, oil-and-gas industry incentives should not be repealed.
  • Manchin's influence would likely ensure natural gas is credited in programs to cut emissions from the electricity sector.

White House climate diplomacy won't get easier. This isn't just inside baseball.

  • The scaled-down reconciliation plan under negotiation is unlikely to get the U.S. all the way to its new commitments under the Paris Agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
  • That could complicate negotiations at the upcoming United Nations climate summit in one month.

If there's a deal, it'll be a bitter pill for many. Remember that progressives initially wanted a package in the $6 trillion range before a Senate deal went down to $3.5 trillion.

  • "$1.5 trillion would make it absolutely impossible to do what has to be done to address the climate crisis," Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters Thursday.

The bottom line: The bipartisan plan has very substantial transit, grid and clean energy investments.

  • But it's the reconciliation package that Democrats are eyeing as a vehicle for vastly larger emissions-cutting provisions. Both are up in the air.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 25, 2021 - Energy & Environment

What we’re watching during the final countdown to COP26

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This is shaping up as a critical week for climate policy in the U.S. and worldwide.

Driving the news: Democrats are in the final stages of trying to craft the big social spending and climate package they're trying to move on a thread-the-needle party-line vote.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Pondering Biden's Plan(et) B

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Plan A for the White House is walking into the UN climate summit in Glasgow with a huge new emissions-cutting law from Congress. Plan B is more complicated.

The big picture: It's anyone's guess whether Democrats' reconciliation plan will pass before the summit starts at the end of the month, and if so, whether huge climate investments will be intact.

First look: New climate website touts Biden's actions

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

What is a White House to do when it is stuck between slow-moving climate legislation and a fast-approaching climate summit where its credibility is on the line? Unveil a new White House climate website, of course, showcasing its actions to date as well as ongoing work.

Why it matters: The Biden administration, which shared the site first with Axios, focuses it around the actions taken by the White House National Climate Task Force.

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