WASHINGTON – Democratic lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to take a more aggressive approach to addressing the threat of global warming now that most of his “Build Back Better” agenda has stalled in Congress.
“This triggers the president to wait to act. This frees up the president to use all the powers of the executive branch, and those full powers certainly include a climate emergency,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Monday after it became clear Democrats lacked support to revive your economy. diary.
With Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and every Senate Republican opposed to more spending to combat climate change, hopes for strong climate legislation are fading once again in Congress.
The setback comes at a time when extreme drought and extreme heat are breaking records around the world, including most recently in Texas and even the UK. More than 1,100 people have died in Spain and Portugal from heat-related causes in the past week.
Biden promised last week, after Manchin briefed Democratic leaders of his opposition to more spending, to take “strong” executive action on climate change. Defenders are waiting to see if it goes ahead.
One action the president could take is to declare a national climate emergency, which would allow him to redirect congressional spending to boost renewable energy. Former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the US-Mexico border and used funds from Congress to build border barriers.
The Biden administration could also impose stricter limits on pollutants and enact more regulations on emissions that contribute to global warming, such as carbon dioxide.
Environmental groups say Biden should go even further by halting federal leasing of fossil fuels and stopping approvals of new pipelines and other oil and gas projects, though such steps seem unlikely for now with the administration focused on reducing high gas prices before the November elections.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), who tweeted last week that Biden should go into “beast mode” on unilateral climate action, urged the president to use the power of the bully pulpit to draw national attention to the issue. . The president could visit parched Lake Mead, which has receded to an all-time low, and meet with firefighters on the front lines of the fight against climate change, the senator added.
“The consequences of fossil emissions in our oceans and in our atmosphere alter the fundamental conditions of those natural operating systems, and when you alter them, that creates consequences that you cannot renegotiate. You can’t negotiate with the laws of physics,” Whitehouse said.
It is unclear in which of these actions, if any, Biden will follow suit. Although the president has shown a willingness to take executive action, including signing orders on guns and abortion, he has resisted broader measures called for by progressives, including canceling student debt and declaring a national emergency. on access to abortion after the annulment of Roe v. Wade.
“You can’t negotiate with the laws of physics.”
– Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.)
Any executive action on climate is likely to face legal challenges from Republicans. The 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, for example, recently overrode the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. Conservatives have signaled their intention to go even further by pressing the high court to completely destroy the power of the administrative state.
But Democrats warned that the consequences of not acting to address climate change were too great, regardless of what the Supreme Court decides to do in the future. They urged Biden to use the power of his office and let the chips fall where they may.
“We can’t stand by for fear of what the court might do,” Merkley said. “Let’s look at all the options, and if some of them get knocked down, they’ll be knocked down, and we’ll double down on the rest.”