Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Fresh climate pressure on U.S. Chamber

headshot
Mar 14, 2024
Sens. Brian Schatz, Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse

Schatz, left, and Whitehouse listen to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in 2019. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz are revamping their climate pressure campaign on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Why it matters: Dem climate hawks spent years pre-IRA trying to get the business lobby to care about carbon emissions. Now they're accusing the Chamber of greenwashing as the Biden administration finalizes climate regulations.

Driving the news: Having sent a series of letters last month, the lawmakers say they've gotten responses indicating that the Chamber's Task Force on Climate Actions has been "inactive for some time."

  • They cite this — and the Chamber's opposition to climate disclosure and emissions regs — as evidence that the group is making a PR show out of climate change without doing anything.
  • "I was suspicious about the extent to which [the task force] would influence the Chamber's behavior, but I never really contemplated that they were just bulls---ing us," Schatz told reporters during a roundtable this morning. "And that's what happened."

Reality check: Chamber spokesperson Matt Letourneau confirmed that the task force is no longer active, but said it was "convened regularly for several years to solicit input from across our membership."

  • "Its workstream has been incorporated in our Energy, Environment, Climate and Sustainability Committee," he said.

Flashback: The Chamber, once a vocal critic of climate science, got more active on the issue around 2019 after lots of criticism from the Hill.

  • It convened the task force and publicly said it supports "market-based" climate policy (read: carbon pricing).
  • It opposed the IRA but did support some of its energy provisions, as well as the infrastructure law and the 2020 HFC phasedown.

What's next: Whitehouse didn't rule out a committee investigation or possible subpoenas for more information.

  • Depending on how the election shakes out, this could turn from social media campaign to congressional probe.
Go deeper