By Berit Thorson
Somehow, 2022 has already brought us to June, which means that it’s lobby meeting season! CCL’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Dr. Danny Richter, is back to provide CCLers with a legislative plan of action heading into this year’s June lobby meetings. This training took place in two parts at the end of May. Part 1 covered what has changed since November, the current dynamics of Congress, and the role CCL can play in pushing for climate action at this time. Part 2 discussed the primary and supporting asks, both generally and for each segment of Congress, as well as what each ask is trying to accomplish.
Danny starts by reminding us what has changed since our last lobby meetings in November. “There are lots of developments and there has been a lot of waiting,” he says. In the past seven months, Sen. Manchin has since decided against supporting Build Back Better, has expressed support for up to $555 billion in climate provisions, is staying consistent in his priorities and concerns, and is working with Sen. Murkowski regarding a bipartisan climate and energy effort. “In my eyes, Sen. Manchin has been extremely consistent throughout this process,” Danny adds. “To that end, he is still talking about the climate provisions.”
Meanwhile, reconciliation is still at the forefront of Democrats’ minds as they enter the summer and the midterm elections loom. Russia has invaded Ukraine, which simultaneously highlighted the need for energy independence (check out this op-ed written by CCL’s Executive Director, Madeleine Para) and scared some members of Congress—on both sides—into calling for a gas tax holiday (which would not increase energy independence). Inflation has also continued to worsen, there has been social upheaval and outrage surrounding issues like abortion and mass shootings, and the midterms are coming up, all of which is impacting the amount of attention given to climate solutions by many members of Congress. In short, it has been a very busy nearly seven months, and while there is hope for passing meaningful climate solutions, our members of Congress will need to be reminded that their constituents want climate action, and soon.
What’s on the minds of members of Congress?
Heading into election season, each side of the political spectrum has an agenda. “We are in election season. Policy discussions are increasingly going to be happening inside the context of the upcoming midterms in November.” Democrats want to show they have passed legislation; they have a strong incentive to pass something through reconciliation, as they did with COVID-19 relief in 2021. It is unlikely that they will be able to pass any sweeping climate legislation without reconciliation, as Republicans want to deny Democratic legislative successes before the midterms this fall. Finally, the staffers on the Hill, with whom you are likely to meet in your lobby meetings, are feeling reconciliation fatigue and general exhaustion on the Democratic side (so be extra patient and kind), and are focused on not helping the Democrats on the Republican side (so be careful with your framing).
It is important to realize, Danny explains, that with the (real) reconciliation deadline of July 30, 2022 (rather than the technical deadline of Sept. 30) fast approaching, hearing from constituents will be energizing to members of Congress and will encourage them to pass a reconciliation package that includes climate action. However, there will be little room for negotiation on the language of the bill, so whatever is negotiated within the Democratic Caucus will be what passes, if anything. Danny says that unfortunately, there is a very low chance that a carbon price is a part of any reconciliation budget that is passed. However, given Sen. Manchin’s explicit support of this policy, there’s a very strong chance that a methane fee will be a part of it. “In fact,” Danny says, “I would be very surprised if it were not. Democrats will need to hear from their constituents to get a final agreement over the line. That’s where we come in.” If the reconciliation package can be passed with anything near a $555 billion climate provision, it would be the largest investment made by our government into combating climate change, about five times over!
As we remind Democrats of their constituents’ interests in climate solutions, we also want to gain Republican support for climate action. Because there is less attention on Republican members of Congress right now as part of the minority party, they are more willing to go a little further in their stated climate support policies. Danny says Republicans are moving toward climate solutions “like they never have before,” so this is a good time to get them to ratchet up their climate provisions and commitments, especially before the new Congress begins and there is more scrutiny of their actions by the media.
CCL’s June 2022 primary and supporting asks
Danny divides Congress into six segments, which have distinct goals and frameworks you can use in your lobby meetings. You can read about the six segments—Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Populist Republicans, House Progressive Democrats, House Moderate Republicans, and House Rank-and-File Democrats—and their competing interests here. The asks CCL has for these different groups can be broken down a few different ways.
Mainly, we have both primary and supporting asks. Additionally, Danny has assigned specific asks to specific segments of Congress. For all House and Senate Democrats, our primary ask is for them to help America meet President Biden’s climate pledge. They will be amenable to this because it has been on their minds in the past, but it is important that we refocus their attention on the science of climate change as distractions mount. For Senate and House Moderate Republicans, Danny recommends using a supporting ask, which you can see below, because this will build momentum for climate policy that will make such policy easier to pass in a divided Congress. Finally, for House Populist Republicans, the primary ask should be to help America win by looking at a carbon border adjustment. Danny explains this will create the best chance for getting members of this segment on board and will more effectively “set up carbon pricing discussions in the future because we are probably heading toward a divided Congress.”
The supporting asks we will focus on for this round of lobby meetings follow CCL’s June 2022 ABCs of lobbying: they Achieve strategic goals, are Bipartisan, and are Complementary to the Energy Innovation Act. These are more important for Republican offices this lobbying season, as our primary asks for most Republicans is regarding our supporting asks. House Moderate Republicans can be encouraged to support the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA), which passed in the Senate 92-8 and focuses on getting farmers onside with climate solutions. You could also ask Senate Republicans and House Moderate Republicans to support the Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act, which encourages planting trees and places penalties on major deforestation. Additionally, as a primary ask for Senate Republicans and House Moderate Republicans, the National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy (NCARS) Act is a good primary ask as it requires the federal government to consider climate impacts in decisions, which is a good way to create upstream solutions. Finally, members of the Senate on both sides can be asked, as a secondary ask, to support the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies an Ecosystems (RISEE) Act, which will give all states a greater financial stake in climate solutions.
As you prepare for the June 2022 lobbying season, we implore you to keep these asks at the forefront of your mind, and hope that Danny’s segmentation of Congress can help focus and personalize the asks you present in your meetings. We are confident that the work you do in these lobby sessions will lead to great climate successes and will grow support for climate solutions across these six segments of Congress. Please reach out to our staff members via CCL Community if you think of any questions not covered in Danny’s training.
Berit Thorson is the CCL Spring 2022 Communications Intern. As an outdoors enthusiast, she is passionate about protecting nature and people from the impacts of climate change, and is excited to be working with CCL toward these goals.