(Trends Wide) — President Joe Biden has a powerful new argument to advance his ambitious domestic agenda, which could define his place in history.
It is leveraging the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida and its remnants to push for infrastructure and spending bills, which include funds to fight the climate crisis – and which could cement its legacy – and are on the cutting edge. of the razor in the Capitol.
Presidents’ trips to disaster-stricken areas are often marked by family rituals, in which they offer a comforting shoulder to victims and photos show them in command while promising support and government aid money to local politicians. Biden did all of that in New York and New Jersey on Tuesday: His administration has asked Congress for $ 24 billion in aid for victims of Ida and other recent weather disasters and storms. And he strolled the streets littered with piles of debris from the storm, which hit the Gulf Coast last week and laid a destructive route across the country before flooding the Northeast.
“Thank God they’re safe,” Biden told a family whose home was destroyed by a fire caused by the floods in New Jersey.
But the president also adopted a more overtly political tone than might be expected on such visits, specifically linking Ida’s ruthless power to the climate crisis, and arguing that the smashed houses served to justify his bills.
His strategy could introduce a new urgency into measures that still face a treacherous path on Capitol Hill. But the specific focus on climate measures could also delve into the concerns of key moderate senators, like West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, whose votes are vital to passing Biden’s ambitious agenda. And they will surely lead the conservative media to accuse the president of politicizing the victims of the storm.
The launch came as Biden tries to reestablish his authority after a bumpy August, marked by criticism of his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the fight to contain the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to listen to scientists, and economists, and national security experts. They all tell us this is code red,” said Biden in the borough of Queens, New York, affected by severe flooding. At least 52 people died in the northeast of the country from Ida, which dumped record rains in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey after it reached the Louisiana coast.
“The nation and the world are in danger. It is not hyperbole, it is fact,” Biden said. “They have been warning us that extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we are experiencing it in real time now.”
Two bills vital to Biden’s legacy
The president specifically referred to his $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal with Republicans, which he said will repair bridges threatened by rising water levels. It also boosted its $ 3.5 trillion spending project, which includes billions of dollars in financing to reduce carbon emissions, clean energy, improve electrical grids and green transportation, including a network of charging stations for electric vehicles. Modifying his “rebuild better” mantra from the 2020 campaign, Biden said the country now needed to rebuild in a new way to be future-proof against climate change.
Traditionally, political party leaders in Western nations that have pledged to fight climate change have struggled to communicate the urgency of spending billions of dollars to address what has sometimes been a vague future threat. This has prompted conservative climate change skeptics to argue against big spending to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.
But Biden has always presented his climate plans not as an environmental crusade, but as a massive employment program, promising the creation of a next-generation economy that will outpace current employment and job losses in the industries that emit. a lot of carbon. And now, he has hardened his rhetoric by highlighting a spate of storms, floods, wildfires and droughts to argue that the effects of climate change are occurring in real time across the United States and must be met with immediate action.
“We don’t have any more time,” Biden said.
“We can’t go back much, but we can prevent it from getting worse,” he said Tuesday, describing global warming as “everyone’s crisis.”
Category 6 Hurricane Warning
Along with sweeping changes to make the economy more equitable for American workers and to expand the social safety net, climate change is a high priority for the Biden administration.
The $ 3.5 trillion spending plan for the climate crisis includes billions of dollars that might otherwise have been included in separate climate bills. This strategy is designed to pass programs with a parliamentary device known as reconciliation, which can be used for budget measures and can avoid lockdown tactics by Senate Republicans.
Climate is also a cornerstone of Biden’s ambition to restore US leadership on the world stage after former President Donald Trump distanced himself from US allies, as well as help rehabilitate his own. picture after the chaotic departure from Afghanistan.
The president rejoined the Paris climate accord from which his predecessor withdrew and announced on Tuesday that he would take an important symbolic step by traveling to the UN Climate Conference in Scotland in November. To lend credibility to his offer of global leadership and pressure other world powers to take economically painful measures to cool a warming planet, Biden hopes to wield a series of new climate measures just passed by Congress. The bills are also crucial to the United States’ commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels.
“We have to move, and we have to move the rest of the world. It’s not just about the United States,” Biden said.
The president may be pursuing a tough political strategy by taking advantage of weather catastrophes. But it is on solid scientific ground. Experts have long warned that super-intense hurricanes and other meteorological disasters offer a devastating preview of the future.
“It is not a coincidence that the most intense and destructive hurricanes on record in the Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, Atlantic and Pacific have occurred in the last decade due to record ocean temperatures. , record amounts of heat that fuel these increasingly strong and destructive storms, “Michael Mann, director of the Center for Earth System Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, explained Tuesday to Trends Wide’s Ana Cabrera. “We are now starting to talk about storms qualitatively different from anything we have seen before, in which we will have to introduce a category 6 to describe the destructive potential of storms.”
Biden relies on Manchin’s endorsement
Biden made his aggressive call for climate action flanked by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader of the US Senate, who will play a pivotal role in pushing the spending bill past the finish line.
However, the enthusiasm with which he highlights the climate aspects of the bill is not without political risks. Framing the spending proposal as part of a broad climate package will please progressives who are demanding passage of the bill as the price to support the infrastructure package in the House. But it could lead the president into a collision with Manchin, who last week threatened to derail Biden’s entire domestic agenda by calling for the spending package to be halted and questioning its size.
Manchin voted in favor of a first framework for the spending bill, which also includes billions of dollars in funding for healthcare, childcare and other social programs last month in the Senate. He did not mention global warming in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week expressing reservations, focusing instead on rising inflation.
But the moderate Democrat has long been an outspoken advocate for the coal industry in his home state, warning earlier this year that he was concerned about provisions he saw aimed at eliminating the fossil fuel industry.
Given the tie at 50 in the Senate, there is no way the spending bill could pass without Manchin’s vote. The West Virginia senator is not the only moderate Democrat who might be uncomfortable with a climate strategy that could tie in with Republican plans to denounce the bill as a huge expense.
Biden, however, expressed confidence in Manchin’s endorsement Tuesday night, saying, “Joe, in the end, has always been there.”
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a sharp retort for the West Virginia senator, who won reelection in 2018 in a state that former President Donald Trump easily won twice, and without which Democrats they would be in the minority in the other chamber.
“Obviously, I don’t agree,” Pelosi told Trends Wide when asked about Manchin’s call for Congress to stop the budget bill.
“The number is what it is, 3.5 (trillions of dollars), we cannot go beyond there,” Pelosi said. Asked if it would drop from the figure that has made Manchin think, the president replied: “Why?”
This month is shaping up to be fateful for Biden’s schedule. If the president succeeds in signing both the infrastructure bill and the spending bill, he can boast of having one of the most significant Democratic presidencies of modern times. If he does not succeed, there is little chance that he will arrive in the 2022 midterm elections with a strong legislative record to run against. And the prospect of a Republican-led House beginning in 2023 could mean that the current window of Democratic power is narrow.
That harsh reality, not to mention the state of the planet, helps explain the note of near-apocalyptic urgency evident in Biden’s voice on Tuesday.
“I think we are at one of those inflection points where either we act or we will have real problems. Our children are going to have real problems,” he said.