by Josh Siegel
While Joe Biden is known for his bipartisan deal-making, he must overcome a potentially more significant roadblock to fulfill his pledge of passing aggressive climate change legislation: winning over centrists from fossil-fuel states in his own party.
“If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, it’s going to be because a lot of purple states turned from red to blue, which suggests there will be less of a mandate to pass something wildly outside a moderate climate objective,” said Sasha Mackler, director of the Energy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
The political landscape has changed from 2009, when opposition from centrist Senate Democrats helped sink a cap-and-trade bill that passed the House and was supported by the Obama administration. Democratic voters have since identified climate change as a top priority, youth activists are demanding quicker action, and clean energy sources are cheaper and competitive, even in Republican-leaning fossil-fuel states.
But centrist Democrats, including former lawmakers involved in the cap-and-trade fight, told the Washington Examiner that Biden, assuming Democrats win the Senate, can’t afford to lose many votes in their party, with Republicans still reluctant to support major climate-related legislation.
They say Biden’s preference for using mandates, regulations, and federal spending to reduce fossil fuel use will be a tough sell for members such as Joe Manchin, the coal-state senator from West Virginia who is poised to lead the Senate Energy Committee.
“There is a difference between aspirations and platforms and actual making of laws,” said former Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who opposed cap-and-trade. “When you are making laws, you have to consider different views between the parties and different regional views that have nothing to do with party. There is no doubt clean energy technologies produce exciting new jobs, but we’ve got a lot of traditional jobs too.”