By Nathan Worcester
In the early hours of Aug. 11, Senate Democrats took another step toward approving a $3.5 trillion budget plan through reconciliation, with the aim of “allowing every major program proposed by President Biden to receive robust funding” while avoiding a Republican filibuster. A significant amount of the proposed funding will likely go to programs relating to climate change or the environment.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the self-described democratic socialist who chairs the Senate Budget Committee that introduced the budget resolution, released a statement in which he said the proposed funding will “put the U.S. in a global leadership position to combat climate change and make our planet healthy and habitable for future generations.”
“We will take on the existential threat of climate change by transforming our energy systems toward renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Sanders said. “Through a Civilian Climate Corps, we will give hundreds of thousands of young people good-paying jobs and educational benefits as they help us combat climate change.”
Although the details are still being negotiated, a memorandum from the Senate Budget Committee on the framework mentions numerous programs related to climate or the environment that are divided across a number of Senate committees. Environmental or climate-related funding likely includes, but isn’t necessarily limited to, the following:
The Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has received an instruction of $135 billion. Its funding includes money for the Civilian Climate Corps (also slated for funding by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), “agricultural climate research and research infrastructure,” “rural co-op clean energy investments,” and “agriculture conservation, drought, and forestry programs to help reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires.”
The Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has received an instruction of $332 billion. Its funding includes “creating healthy and sustainable housing.”
The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology has received an instruction of $83 billion. Its funding includes money for the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund, as well as associated funding for “coastal resiliency” and “healthy oceans investments.”
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has received an instruction of $198 billion. Its funding includes “financing for domestic manufacturing of clean energy and auto supply chain technologies,” as well as the Clean Electricity Payment Program, “federal procurement of energy-efficient materials,” “climate research,” and unspecified “Department of Interior programs.”
The Committee on Environment and Public Works has received an instruction of $67 billion. Its funding includes a clean technology accelerator for “low-income solar and other climate-friendly technologies.” It also includes “environmental justice investments in clean water affordability and access, healthy ports, and climate equity”; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding for “climate and research programs”; federal funding for “energy-efficient buildings and green materials”; and “investments in clean vehicles.”
The Committee on Finance has received an instruction requiring at least $1 billion in deficit reduction. Its listed investments include “clean energy, manufacturing, and transportation tax incentives.”
The Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions has received an instruction of $726 billion. This includes additional funding for the Civilian Conservation Corps (also slated for funding by the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry).
The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has received an instruction of $37 billion. This includes funding for “electrifying the federal vehicle fleet (USPS and Non-USPS),” “electrifying and rehabilitating federal buildings,” “federal investments in green materials procurement,” and unspecified “resilience.”
The Committee on Indian Affairs has received an instruction of $20.5 billion. This includes funding for “Native energy programs,” “Native resilience and climate programs,” and a “Native Civilian Climate Corps.”
As of press time, neither Sanders nor Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had provided additional details on the amounts that could be allocated to individual programs, nor had they provided estimates for total spending on environmental and climate-related items.
The Senate Budget Committee’s memo claims the $3.5 trillion proposal will be “fully offset by a combination of new tax revenues, health care savings, and long-term economic growth.”
“What Sen. Sanders and Washington Democrats are offering is a roadmap to ruin for America’s working families,” House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (R.-Mo.) said in a statement.
“After 1,000 days of failing to pass a real budget, spending trillions already this year, and overseeing the largest inflationary growth in 40 years, they are now recklessly using this moment to start the process of unleashing trillions more in new spending and taxes that will cripple family budgets by fueling higher prices on everyday goods and services and draining the American economy of opportunity and growth.”
The Senate Budget Committee’s memorandum states that the Committee on Environment and Public Works’ instruction includes a “methane polluter fee to reduce carbon emissions.” The Committee on Finance’s listed offsets include a “Carbon Polluter Import Fee.”
The Senate also approved climate- and environment-related amendments to the budget blueprint from Republicans. These included Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) amendment “establishing a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to prohibiting renewable energy projects receiving Federal funds and subsidies from purchasing materials, technology, and critical minerals produced in China,” which passed 90-9, and Sen. John Boozman’s (R-Ark.) amendment to establish a deficit-neutral fund “prohibiting the Department of Agriculture from making ineligible for financing fossil fuel-burning power plants,” which passed 53-46.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted with Democrats and Sanders to approve Sen. Thomas Carper’s (D-Del.) amendment “to establish a reserve fund relating to addressing the crisis of climate change.”