Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday pledged a unified Democratic Congress would pursue a “multifront approach” to combatting the climate crisis, acknowledging that lawmakers must enact policies that further cut carbon emissions to slow the dangerous warming of the planet.
“Our North Star in this bill was a 40 percent reduction by 2030 of carbon going into the atmosphere, but we obviously want to have to go much further than that,” said the New York Democrat during a press call to mark Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of President Joe Biden signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law.
“It was an amazing and giant first step,” Schumer said of the largest federal climate investment in history, “but certainly was not sufficient. The Biden administration has talked about 50 percent … we want the number to be higher than 40 percent, for sure.”
As examples of what Schumer would like Democrats to do should they retain control of the Senate and White House and win back their majority in the House of Representatives in 2024, he mentioned “making our power, our electricity, as green as possible.”
This could be achieved by further overhauling the existing permitting process to expand transmission deployment — an ongoing debate on Capitol Hill — or approving a new tax credit for transmission projects.
“We couldn’t quite get that done in the last bill,” Schumer said, “but with a Democratic House and Senate, I believe we could.”
He also said he was eying “more incentives” to decarbonize “the transportation sector, the factory sector, the farm sector,” resulting in a multifront approach like the IRA, “but just take it further along.”
There are, of course, no guarantees that Democrats would be able to rally around another massive climate bill in the next Congress, even if the elections next year go their party’s way: Much would depend on the strength of their majorities, competing legislative priorities and the politics of the moment.
Schumer mentioned, in passing, his partnership with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the moderate chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who helped negotiate the final bill in secret last July.
“The public knows now, I think, instinctively … that this [bill] was done by the president, and frankly the Democratic Senate, where Manchin and I negotiated the IRA behind closed doors,” he said.
Manchin has distanced himself from the IRA over the last year, criticizing the Biden administration’s approach to implementation and at times even downplaying the extent of his involvement in getting the bill over the finish line.
And while Schumer emphasized that Democrats did not pass the IRA to benefits “blue states” over “red states,” the Democratic leader was glad to point out that Republicans are now reaping the rewards of the law they all opposed and have repeatedly sought to undermine and scale back.
“The best proof that this is a success is all the Republicans showing up when a new factory opens up, a new clean energy facility opens up” in their states and districts,” Schumer said. “They’re coming because they know that there are so many good-paying jobs coming in across the whole country.”
He added that hoped Republicans would “join us” on “issues related to the environment” going forward, now that more GOP members are “seeing how good these things are” back home.
But, Schumer said, “the environment is too important to just wait for Republicans until they escape, if they ever can and want to, the [influence of] the oil and gas industry.”