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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Photo By Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of Capitol Hill's most vocal members on climate change, went public on Monday about his fear that chances to enact major legislation on the topic are slipping away.

Why it matters: His tweets reflect wider angst on the left that large clean energy and climate investments will be jettisoned in infrastructure negotiations between the White House and Congress.

Driving the news: "I’m now officially very anxious about climate legislation," Whitehouse tweeted.

  • "Climate has fallen out of the infrastructure discussion, as it took its bipartisanship detour. It may not return. So then what?," he tweeted.
  • "I don’t see the preparatory work for a close Senate climate vote taking place in the administration. Why not marshal business support?," Whitehouse added.
  • He also expressed concern about "quarreling" among groups and activists, while claiming that corporate American is "AWOL" and "all the major corporate trade associations suck."

Catch up fast: President Biden in late March proposed a $2 trillion-plus infrastructure package that included major provisions on electric vehicles, low-carbon power, mass transit, efficient housing and more.

The White House also wants an array of new and expanded tax incentives.

  • But Republicans oppose both the plan's price tag and expansive definition of infrastructure beyond traditional areas like roads and bridges.
  • Negotiations are continuing. Democratic leaders can look to move some provisions with no GOP backing through the budget reconciliation process, but it's far from clear whether they can get every member of their caucus on board.

What they're saying: "The President is engaged in good faith with both parties in Congress to deliver historic infrastructure investments that will drive economic growth, produce the clean technologies of the future and create good paying jobs," a White House official tells Axios.

  • The official added that Biden is "emphatic that inaction is not an option" and that he is "open to other conversations about infrastructure happening in the Senate."
  • And White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the most recent offer from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead Republican on infrastructure negotiations, "did not meet the president's bar of growing the economy, tackling the climate crisis and creating new jobs."

Go deeper

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on powering up clean energy jobs

On Friday, September 17, Axios Climate & Energy reporter Andrew Freedman and Energy reporter Ben Geman hosted a virtual conversation on what building a fair economy with quality clean energy jobs could look like, featuring The Honorable Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and BlueGreen Alliance executive director Jason Walsh.

Sen. Alex Padilla explained how the infrastructure bill puts forth investments toward the environment, the urgency of acting on climate change at a legislative level, and how recent climate emergencies have underscored that urgency. 

  • In response to questions about climate investments in the infrastructure bill: “We need to act with urgency, we need to act boldly, that’s half the equation. It’s okay to have questions on what the price tag is, but of equal importance is knowing that we’re doing this in a fiscally responsible way.” 
  • On garnering necessary bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill to pass: “I do believe we’re going to get to yes at the end of the day, and that end of the day is going to be in the weeks ahead, not the months ahead, because of the urgency that I just laid out.” 

Jason Walsh highlighted the important intersection between climate action and clean energy jobs, the challenges of creating high-quality jobs in the power sector, and how budget reconciliation would help to meet clean energy job goals. 

  • On addressing crises relating to job creation, economic and racial inequality, and the climate emergency: “We have the ability with budget reconciliation to advance solutions to these crises that are as mutually reinforcing and intersecting as their causes. We feel like we can’t afford not to take advantage of this opportunity.”
  • On why budget reconciliation must address the lack of high-quality clean energy jobs: “Not enough of the clean energy jobs that have been created are high quality and union. They have not been created at scale in some of the communities and parts of the country that need them the most, and the lived experience of workers dislocated from incumbent industries, coal mining and power plants, doesn’t meet any reasonable standard of fairness and justice.”

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Sep 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Sinema's secret spreadsheets

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is negotiating the size and scope of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget plan armed with her own spreadsheets about the costs and tax hikes needed for each program, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: While Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is getting attention for balking at a $3.5 trillion top-line price tag, Sinema's accountant-like focus on the bottom line will be equally important to winning the votes of them and other key Democrats.

Sep 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate leaving without finalizing reconciliation bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate leaders are planning to hold final votes for the week on Tuesday night so members can fly home early for Yom Kippur, three aides familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senate Democrats, who returned on Monday from their monthlong recess, are planning to leave town one day before Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) "soft" deadline for the House and Senate committees to finish drafting their portions of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure reconciliation plan.

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