Senate Democrats Release Climate Plan to Counter Dark Money

Yesterday, Senate Democrats released a 200-page climate change report that they say will serve as their legislative roadmap should the reclaim the Senate majority this fall.

The Committee’s report calls on Congress to:

  • Achieve 100% global net-zero emissions no later than 2050;
  • Stimulate economic growth by increasing federal spending on climate action to at least 2% of GDP annually
  • Ensure that at least 40% of the benefits from these investments help frontline communities
  • Create at least 10 million new jobs

Most green groups like Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Evergreen Action were in support of the report. While others like Friends of the Earth issued a strongly-worded rebuke criticizing Senate Democrats for failing to commit to ending fossil fuel subsidies (a sentiment echoed by Earther) and pushing for carbon markets which have shown limited ability to reduce emissions.

Why This Matters: If Democrats win back the Senate this November, their majority will likely be a slim one. And in order to pass any climate legislation, that slim majority will need the votes of more moderate Democratic senators like Joe Manchin (WV), Sherrod Brown (OH) who support shale development. And if former Governor John Hickenlooper wins the senate race in Colorado, his past stances would indicate that he’s not in favor of a fracking ban. Senate Democrats don’t have the leeway to be as progressive in their climate goals as their House counterparts, but this plan is an important start to making progress.

Senate Dems Climate Commitment: As Vox’s David Roberts explained,

“In March 2019, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer established the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis to examine the effects of climate change on the country and develop a strategy to address it. Over the past year, the committee has held 10 hearings and a dozen closed-door meetings, solicited input from several specific stakeholder groups, and reviewed thousands of public comments.”

Chaired by Senator Brian Schatz (HI), the special committee was created in response to Senate Republicans’ inaction on climate change as well as Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) refusal to schedule or allow for a vote on the resolution to establish a bipartisan select committee on the climate crisis.

Roberts went on to explain that while the recently-released report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was technocratic, heavy on the nuts and bolts of policy,

the Senate committee report is a much more political document. It is focused on the political barriers to action, getting allies on the same page, and overcoming well-funded opponents. It specifically addresses unions, environmental justice communities, and farmers, and recommends reforms to the financial system and dark money in politics.”

And that truly seems to be the broader goal of what Senate Democrats hope to achieve: a counterbalance to the dark money and coordinated special interest groups (like the Koch network) that are so apt at stalling and stopping bold federal climate action. Ultimately, the political armies employed by the likes of the Kochs to preserve their fossil fuel empire have wasted precious years in climate action that needed to be taken. If we can take away the power of special interests to stall climate action, that will be a win for everyone wanting to live on a habitable planet.

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