America just ignored Biden’s big climate law

Perhaps the best day for climate action in American political history was August 7, 2022, when the Senate overcame 30 years of sclerosis and passed the Reducing Inflation Act, the nation’s first comprehensive climate law. After that day, it was confirmed that the bill had been passed into law, passed through the House of Representatives and reached the desk of the president.

But maybe secondly The most important day for US climate policy was last Tuesday. The Democrats’ surprisingly strong showing in the midterm elections will prove to be a landmark in the history of how the country has dealt with global warming. This will help ensure that the IRA can transform American industry and promote renewables, electric cars, and other carbon-neutral energy sources. There will still be obstacles in the way of law enforcement, of course. And Biden’s policy may prove inadequate to the task of reducing carbon pollution. But the game has changed though. US climate policy will never be the same.

why is that? Well, first, because Democrats broke the cardinal rule of American politics — that the president’s party always bleeds seats in the House in his first midterm elections: Republicans lost 41 seats in the 2018 midterms, for example, and Democrats lost 63 seats in 2010. . Although control of the House of Representatives is still in the works, the most likely outcome as of this writing is that the Republicans will win a slim majority, Maybe as small as a single seat. This majority will be wobbly, and the new Speaker of the House will have very little margin for error.

In the meantime, the Democrats seem likely to retain control of the Senate, possibly increasing their majority by a seat. There’s another midterm precedent: The GOP defended its majority in the Senate in 2018, too.

The significance of these two outcomes—the first a spiritual victory for the Democrats, the second a literal victory—is evident once they are included in the broader scope of American environmental history. Since global warming became a national issue in the late 1980s, Democrats have struggled to fight it without facing an electoral setback. In 1993, President Bill Clinton tried and failed to pass a “BTU tax,” an additional cost on energy production that would boost renewables and is similar in some ways to a carbon tax. This proposal never became law—it passed the House and died in the Senate—but many of the lawmakers who voted for it were sidelined in the 1994 midterm elections anyway. In 2009, the House Democratic majority again considered the pro-climate trade cap bill. That proposal, too, passed the House, died in the Senate, and then cost some House members their seats anyway.

The IRA has defied the examples here, of course, because it became law. But it seems that its approval did not cost the Democrats in the medium term. This sets the IRA apart not only from previous climate proposals but also from previous laws of all kinds. The 2010 and 2018 midterms were driven in part by a general revolt against the sitting president’s key legislation: the Affordable Care Act in the first case and President Donald Trump’s tax reform bill in the second. Yet voters did not rise up in the same way against the IRA, even though it is at least as central to Biden’s legacy as tax reform is to Trump. as such E&E News Noted last week, relatively few GOP ads mentioned the IRA in the run-up to the election.

The climate law doesn’t seem to harm Democrats even in particularly rural or fossil-fuel-dependent areas. Look at New Mexico, for example, which recently replaced North Dakota as the No. 2 oil-producing state in the country. As the election began, the state was represented in the House of Representatives by two Democrats and a Republican, Rep. Yvette Herrell, who came from the state’s oil-rich southeast. Not only did voters re-elect the Democrats (both of whom supported the IRA) but replaced Hurrell with the Democrat (who had some help from a friendly Jerry Maker). Or look at Colorado’s 8th District, which includes the northern suburbs of Denver and much of the state’s oil country, where Democrat Yadira Carafio beat Republican Barbara Kirkmer.

It’s also likely that the party was held in Maine’s rural 2nd District, one of only eight Democratic-controlled counties nationwide that backed Trump in 2020. Apparently Democratic Rep. Jared Golden — who rejected previous climate proposals but voted in favor Ira – has won re-election.

The IRA’s lack of an electoral sanction is only part of the good news for Biden. The the fruit Of the elections — likely a divided Republican House and a narrow Democratic Senate — will greatly enhance the president’s ability to implement climate and energy policy in his second term.

Over the next two years, the Biden administration will implement the International Rehabilitation Act, translate its tax credits into policy and establish new programs at the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. His party retaining control of the Senate means Biden will be able to staff and run the government as usual, and present judges and executive branch nominees for confirmation throughout his term. And if the slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives is not particularly ungovernable, that would give Biden more leverage in budget negotiations to push for more climate funding.

It would also be better able to defend the IRA itself. By 2024, the IRA will be much more difficult to undo – it will have already built more hard infrastructure and even subsidized new factories across the red states, getting “hard in the ground”, says Ali Zaidi, Biden’s microclimate czar . .

A few weeks ago, investment bank Credit Suisse published a report saying that if implemented successfully, the IRA could unlock more than $800 billion in spending and turn the United States into “the world’s leading energy provider.” The midterm elections were the biggest threat to that outcome. Now the threat is over.

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