Democrat lawmakers plan to use their status as the majority party in both the House and Senate to focus on climate-related issues, a top priority of the party’s far-left members, admitting that they are now thinking in “very ambitious terms.”
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), chair of the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis, said the makeup of the Senate, House, and White House — which will all be led by Democrats — will force different conversations with the hope that progressives can take legislative action on climate-related issues.
“Now the conversations are a little bit different,” she said, according to the Hill, adding that Democrats are “now thinking in very ambitious terms.”
Plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord are among President-elect Joe Biden’s flurry of executive orders for his first days in office. However, Democrat lawmakers hope to move far beyond that domestically, including “zero-emissions future for the transportation sector; fighting against environmental inequality in marginalized communities; improving the country’s drinking water systems; and promoting biodiversity by protecting wildlife and preserving public lands,” according to a spokesperson for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, per the Hill.
While Democrats have obstacles moving forward, garnering 60 votes in favor of their new legislative priorities, their efforts will likely have the support of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the ultimate tiebreaker in the U.S. Senate, who once said climate change is “threatening our very existence.”
Harris, whom GovTrack rated in 2019 as the most left-wing U.S. senator, was one of the first senators to back the radical Green New Deal pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her ultra-progressive counterparts.
Biden, however, drifted from the far-left cries of his party members during the presidential debates, stating definitively, “No, I don’t support the Green New Deal” — an omission Harris largely failed to address on the campaign trail. She did, however, make her position on climate-related issues known during the Democrat primary race, even expressing support for banning plastic straws and altering the food pyramid to reduce the consumption of red meat.
As Breitbart News detailed:
“We must have and adopt a Green New Deal,” Harris said during a debate last summer. “On day one as president, I would reenter us in the Paris Agreement and put it in place so we would be carbon neutral by 2030.”
That same summer, Harris teamed up with Ocasio-Cortez to advance the “Climate Equity Act,” which would rate economic regulations “based on its impact on low-income communities, which are disproportionately affected by climate change because they are often in flood zones, near highways or power plants, or adjacent to polluted lands known as brownfields,” according to the New York Times.
Despite the hurdles, progressives expect to make gains in these areas, given the Democrat majorities in both chambers, as narrow as they may be.
John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s global climate policy director, explained that there is “a very big difference between what happened over the last four years — where everything that the House passed, just sat in a graveyard on the Senate side and there was never any action on it — versus legislation being brought to the floor and Republicans having to actually vote it down.”
Biden reportedly plans to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on day one in office, prompting praise from Green New Deal advocates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT):
The Keystone pipeline is & always has been a disaster. I'm delighted that Joe Biden will cancel the Keystone permit on his first day in office. With all of the major crises facing America, we must never lose sight of the most existential threat facing our planet: climate change. https://t.co/8lDZDOgsVy
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 18, 2021
Biden also plans to introduce another bill in February, in addition to his $1.9 trillion spending plan released last week, which will reportedly include climate change-related measures.