As lawmakers offer dueling infrastructure proposals in an effort to get a bipartisan bill across the finish line, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich (D) is looking to a different option: pushing forward with the president’s climate priorities, through budget reconciliation.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live, Heinrich said the infrastructure package and climate initiatives will likely "move in parallel" given the lack of Republican support for a broader $2 trillion proposal, focused largely on investments in the green economy.
“We are at a moment where we really have to be making major investments in solving the climate crisis. We are out of time,” Heinrich said. “So if those investments are simply left out. I think that's a hard sell.”
A member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Heinrich has emerged as a critical voice on climate change, warning against Democratic support for an infrastructure plan that doesn’t include key investments in clean energy. But Republican lawmakers have shown little appetite for projects that pivot the country away from fossil fuels.
A bipartisan proposal backed by at least 11 Republican senators calls for billions in new spending for bridges and roads, broadband, as well as public transit, but leaves much of the climate initiatives in the American Jobs Plan out. Instead it calls for an increase in the gas tax, and proposes an annual fee for electric vehicles.
“I think that the likely path here is either these things will move in parallel, knowing that we have the votes to pass both [infrastructure and climate] or we may not see either of them move past the Senate floor,” Heinrich said. “At the end of the day, my biggest concern is, at a time when the West is on fire, when we have no water in our reservoirs...this is the time when we should be meeting that challenge, meeting that crisis and not turning away from it.”
Heinrich said recent developments point to the urgency of addressing the issue. Excessive heat warnings have blanketed much of the West coast this week, with temperatures in many cities smashing records that have been in place for years. Meanwhile, new numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said carbon dioxide emissions reached a 4.5 million year high.
White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy has insisted that climate remains a priority, saying the White House will deliver "what is necessary to reach its climate target." But the back and forth on infrastructure points to the growing challenges the administration faces in pushing through an ambitious climate agenda, that includes establishing a clean energy standard, scaling up electric vehicle adoption, and helping fossil fuel workers transition into green jobs.
The U.S. has already pledged to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by at least half of 2005 levels.
“We need to show leadership on the world stage in the run up to Glasgow to be taken seriously,” said Heinrich, referring to the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference or Cop26. “We need to begin that transition now.”
Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita