Biden Makes Dangerous Bet On Climate Policy

( President Joe Biden certainly has an ambitious plan to attack climate change, but the big question is — will he be able to get it passed through Congress?

It’s almost a certainty that Biden’s climate policy will gain the support of just about every Democrat. There are aspects of it that may even appeal to some Republicans. But, it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to get the support of a full 10 Republican senators to avoid the filibuster in the upper chamber.

That fact has the Biden administration looking toward the budget reconciliation process to try to avoid the filibuster altogether. The problem, though, is that establishing clean electricity standards may not fit within the Senate rules for what can go into budget reconciliation bills.

The matter at hand is what’s called the Byrd rule, and it prohibits “extraneous matters” that aren’t related to the budget to be considered as part of a reconciliation bill. In other words, the Byrd rule prevents one party from stuffing a bunch of unrelated items into a bill just to get it pushed through without bipartisan support.

Many people feel that’s exactly what the Biden administration would be trying to do if they were to try to get their climate standards passed through budget reconciliation.

The crux of Biden’s policy would be for the U.S. to generate 100% carbon-free power by 2035. Emissions would also be reduced economy-wide by 50%.

These would basically be mandated targets for what utilities would need to purchase that is low-carbon.

But, standards like this don’t seem to fit in with traditional budgetary items. As the senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Bill Hoagland, said:

“The term ‘clean energy standard’ suggests a regulatory activity and quite frankly, if it’s purely a regulation requirement that utility companies meet a certain standard, I don’t see how that can possibly be considered under a reconciliation instruction.”

Democrats already failed earlier in 2021 to stuff their budget reconciliation bill with ancillary items. The biggest thing they didn’t get was including a federal minimum wage hike to $15 per hour as part of their economic stimulus package, which was passed earlier this year through budget reconciliation.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, ruled the minimum wage hike couldn’t be included in budget reconciliation then. She’s also the person who would rule on whether they could include clean energy standards into the next one.

As Hoagland commented:

“These are starting to stretch the purpose of what reconciliation and the budget process was supposed to do.”

The Byrd rule passed through the Senate back in 1985. It basically went into effect to prevent exactly what Democrats are trying to do now — ram through legislation since they are the majority party in the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

And they’re rushing to do as much as they possibly can now, because there’s a good chance that they will lose control of at least one, if not both, chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.