June 5, 2023

In a 50-50 Senate, more than a decade later, Markey and his fellow Democrats voted to pass the Reducing Inflation Act — by far the largest climate investment in U.S. history. The bill, which still needs to pass the House, contains more than $370 billion in tax breaks and other funding to boost clean energy and reduce planet-warming emissions.

“I don’t know if it has caught up with me,” the New Mexico Democrat told CNN. “We thought we’d get this done in 2009, 2010, and obviously it took another 12 years. I think it’s going to be transformative.”

The passage of the bill is not too early. The urgency to reverse the dangerous trajectory of the climate crisis has never been greater. For more than 4 million years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have never been higher, Scientists report in Junewhile human greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb.

Scientists have warned for decades that the climate crisis is fueling extreme heat, severe droughts and stronger storms, with the consequences of burning fossil fuels being felt in every corner of the country.

In the past few weeks, the western United States has seen catastrophic wildfires, a series of deadly flash floods in the Midwest and California, and an expansion of the worst drought in the West in the 12th century. In 2021 alone, the U.S. will spend more than $145 billion on extreme weather.

It was through this lens that the vote was personal to many senators, some of whom told CNN they voted with the future of their children and grandchildren first.

“It’s about their lives and whether they’re going to have a planet to grow on,” Tom Carper, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told CNN.

The Delaware Democrat added: “Do they have a future? Do their children have a future? It doesn’t get any bigger.”

‘The Earth itself is in danger’

Climate victory is not guaranteed.

Since negotiations began more than a year ago, lawmakers and staff have watched other versions of the bill die in dramatic fashion. The final, slender version was resurrected in the latest secret negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — a key swing vote for Democrats.

“Each near-death experience is as terrifying as the last,” said Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “I’ve never had so many ups and downs on a piece of legislation. It’s had extraordinary twists and turns, and — the planet itself is in danger.”

When Manchin complained in July about the bill’s impact on inflation and energy security, he also received diatribes from other Democrats. Carper told CNN that he presented West Virginians with a list of recent climate disasters and extreme weather in the Senate and urged him to act.
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“I would say, ‘I need you to help my state,'” recalls Carper. “‘My state is the lowest state in America; my state is sinking.'”

Carper said he told Manchin that while Democrats are committed to helping West Virginia’s coal miners transition to a clean energy economy, Manchin’s vote also needs to help states like Delaware and Louisiana whose coastlines are engulfed by oceans. .

Over the course of several weeks, Democrats watched Manchin go from “no” to the face of the bill and defended it in the media.

“Everyone has heard him say that if he can explain it, he can vote for it,” Schatz said. “He finally came up with the bill he was proud of, and then it was like a light switch flipped. He wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming; he was dragging other people, and he was leading the message on this bill.”

On Thursday night, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced she would also support the bill, giving the party the 50 votes it needed.

On Thursday, Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota told CNN that “the influence actually finally hit me for the first time.” “Tears welled up in my eyes and I’m so happy.”

Just a few weeks ago, Smith said she “thought the door was closed. When I realized there was a deal, I couldn’t believe it.”

Big win before midterm

Senate climate hawks told CNN their work is not done, but which way they go next depends on the outcome of November’s midterm elections and whether the party can retain its fragile congressional majority.

Lawmakers told CNN that Democrats will immediately enact an environmental permitting reform bill that Schumer and Manchin agreed to advance this fall as part of their larger deal. Manchin wants a maximum period of two years for drilling permit reviews and an expedited process for some major interstate transmission projects.
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But it will also move forward with a controversial natural pipeline project in Virginia and West Virginia that has long been a priority for Manchin. The measure would require a Republican vote to pass the 60-vote threshold, which could complicate matters.

“We always knew there would be some stench,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told CNN Fossil Fuel Measures. Still, Whitehouse conceded that “some of this is something we want”, such as regulations to speed up power transmission licensing.

Climate hawks also plan to put more pressure on the Biden administration to roll out strong regulations and executive action, and some are considering reviving measures Manchin took last year, such as a clean power plan that would lead to more Big cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

For now, they are finally relieved that the climate has achieved a major victory.

“I think this bill will show the power of action,” Smith said. “I don’t think it’s going to be the last thing we do, but it’s going to break the dam of inaction.”

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