Washington Report- August 2021

Aug 9, 2021 | Blog, Washington Report

By Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, IPL Federal Policy AssociateWashington Report - Feb 2021

It’s almost August recess in DC, normally a time when work slows down and legislators book tickets back to their home states. But nothing about this year has been normal. While members of the House have left town, senators remain hard at work on two bills at the heart of President Biden’s agenda. And Senate Leader Chuck Schumer is threatening to keep them here until they can deliver.

Infrastructure and Climate Updates

We finally have text for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and it should be coming up for a vote in the Senate tomorrow. (For a refresher on the current two-track approach to infrastructure legislation, see the June update here.)

Of IPL’s priorities, the bipartisan bill includes:

  • Funding to clean up Superfund sites and other legacy pollution, including abandoned mine lands ($21 billion, with $11 billion for abandoned mine lands)
  • Investments to improve and expand ‌Amtrak‌ ‌service‌ ‌($66 billion)
  • Some funding for ‌clean‌ ‌drinking‌ ‌water ($63 billion, only $15 billion for lead pipe removal)
  • Investments in ‌the‌ ‌development‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌21st‌ ‌century‌ ‌electrical‌ ‌grid‌ ($65 billion)
  • Building electric‌ ‌vehicle‌ ‌charging‌ ‌stations‌ ($7.5 billion)

These provisions are important, and the funding for abandoned mine lands is especially encouraging, as it would more than cover the funding that IPL has long sought through the RECLAIM Act. Collectively, however, this package falls short of the investments needed and does little to address the climate crisis. We must ensure that the reconciliation package includes real funding for:

  • Clean energy: The bipartisan deal includes no meaningful support for wind and solar power. We need the reconciliation package to include an extension and expansion of clean energy tax credits for wind, solar, and electric vehicles, as well as a national Clean Energy Standard that supports truly clean, renewable energy.
  • Replacing lead pipes: This deal cuts the total funding for clean water to half of what the President had initially proposed, and only $15 billion for removing lead pipes. This is significantly less than $60 billion the water industry estimates is needed to ensure all communities have lead-free drinking water.
  • Clean transportation: The bipartisan deal includes insufficient funding for public transit, rail, electric school buses, and electric vehicle charging.
  • Investing with justice: As President Biden promised on the campaign trail, we need to see at least 40% of funds spent in the communities hurt the most by our current polluting economy.

Democratic senators are expected to vote on a budget framework (the basic outline of their reconciliation deal) as soon as the bipartisan deal passes. Then the real work will begin.

Voting Rights

The For the People Act (H.R. 1 / S. 1) (see fact sheet here) passed the House earlier this year. It had stalled in the Senate because Sen. Joe Manchin, the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, had refused to support it, but it gained new life in June with a compromise measure from Manchin that includes many of the essential pieces of the bill.

Senators are now working behind the scenes to write up a new version of the bill that includes the provisions Manchin supports in both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4263 in the last Congress). For now, Manchin and several other Democratic senators still oppose any changes to the filibuster that would allow this important legislation to pass with a simple majority vote, as IPL has called for.

Yet the fact that a new version of the bill is being worked on is itself a victory. Voting rights legislation still has a chance in this Congress thanks to the many faithful advocates across the country who have kept talking to their senators about the For the People Act.

Keep the faith, and keep the pressure on your senators this summer! Check back here for updates.

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