U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is demanding a novel quid pro quo from Donald Trump as the 2019 legislative session looms—if the former reality TV star wants a deal to rebuild America’s crumbling physical infrastructure, it’ll have to include measures that respond to climate change.
“Now that Democrats will soon control one branch of Congress,” Schumer writes in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, “Trump is again signaling that infrastructure could be an area of compromise. We agree, but if the president wanted to earn Democratic support in the Senate, any infrastructure bill would have to include policies and funding that help transition our country to a clean energy economy and mitigate the risks the United States already faces from climate change.”
The US. Congress “has failed to act in a meaningful way,” largely because “powerful special interests have a stranglehold on many of my Republican colleagues; some GOP legislators even refuse to acknowledge that climate change is happening,” Schumer adds. “So despite the immense size of the problem, despite wildfires that sweep through the West and hurricanes that grow more powerful over the years, real action on climate change has been stymied by the denialism of the president and too many Republicans in Congress.”
Beginning in January, Democrats will hold the majority in the House of Representatives—and they’ll still carry influence in the Senate, where it takes 60 votes out of 100 to get anything significant done. Which is where Schumer may be breaking important ground by linking an infrastructure bill with climate action.
“One area where there’s an opportunity to do something on climate change is an infrastructure bill,” he writes. So Schumer has written to Trump to lay out “the kinds of policies Democrats expect in an infrastructure bill. For example, we should make massive investments in renewable energy infrastructure, especially in exciting new technologies such as battery storage. We also must make our infrastructure more climate-resilient, particularly the electrical grid and our water and wastewater systems. Those items belong in any infrastructure bill—indeed they were all included in the Senate Democratic proposal last year—but we can and should go further.”
Schumer’s extended vision for the bill includes permanent tax credits for clean energy production and storage, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient homes, investment in wildlife and habitat conservation, and significant reduction in methane emissions from fossil production—all of which translate into “good-paying green jobs.”
“No doubt, a single infrastructure bill alone will not solve our climate problem,” Schumer acknowledges. “But it is an important and necessary first step to include at least some, if not many, of these ideas. Without them, Trump should not count on Democratic support in the Senate.”