Infrastructure bill becomes law, includes a CCL secondary ask
By Flannery Winchester
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives took a much-anticipated vote on a major infrastructure bill. The bill, which is officially named the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is often referred to as the “bipartisan infrastructure framework” or “BIF” for short.
The BIF passed with 228 supporting votes.
All but six House Democrats voted for the bill, joined by 13 House Republicans. Several of those 13 are familiar names from the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, such as Reps. Bacon, Fitzpatrick, Katko, Reed, and Upton.
Earlier this year, 50 Senate Democrats and 19 Senate Republicans voted together to pass the BIF through their chamber. Again, this list includes Senators with a history of engaging on climate issues, including all the Democratic members of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus and most of their Republican counterparts, Sens. Murkowski, Romney, Graham, Collins, and Portman.
The bill will now head to President Biden, who will officially sign it into law.
“This should free up Congress to focus fully on the budget reconciliation process,” CCL Strategy Director, Tony Sirna, explained in a post on CCL Community. That’s good news, because we are pushing hard for a price on carbon to be included in that budget reconciliation package.
But before we discuss what’s next, let’s take a closer look at the climate provisions included in BIF and how CCL’s efforts helped this important legislation become law.
Climate provisions in BIF
The infrastructure package is not specifically a climate bill — its primary goal was not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — but it does include some climate provisions that we should celebrate. The investments come in the areas of alternative vehicles, public transit, research and innovation, and energy infrastructure. Here are a few examples of the funding included:
- Alternative vehicles – $2.5 billion over five years for grants for electric vehicle charging stations and alternative fuel infrastructure
- Public transit – $2.34 billion for low- or zero-emission bus grants
- Energy infrastructure – $3.5 billion over five years for Energy Department financial support for projects that help develop four regional hubs to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transport, store, and use it.
CCL’s legislative staff compiled a thorough summary of these and many other climate-related provisions that were included, so check that out for a deeper dive.
CCL efforts helped shape and pass the bill
Exciting for CCL is that provisions from the Storing CO2 And Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act were included in the BIF. This bill was one of CCL’s supporting asks in our June 2021 lobby meetings and throughout the summer.
As CCL volunteers have called and emailed their representatives in recent months, those with Republican House members have been requesting their support on this infrastructure package, helping ensure that the House vote was bipartisan.
“The inclusion of these measures shows that CCL’s volunteer lobbying has an impact,” says Dr. Danny Richter, CCL’s VP of Government Affairs. “This is a powerful reminder of why CCL supports other bipartisan climate bills — because we can make a difference.”
In addition to volunteers lobbying on these provisions, CCL also contributed to coalition letters laying out climate measures we and other groups wanted to see included in the bill.
In one letter, we also emphasized the value of bipartisanship, stating, “Bipartisanship is something that is important to us, and we know it’s not something that just happens. You have to work at it, and doing that work is essential to a vibrant, thriving democracy. It is also popular. Poll after poll shows us that the American people want their representatives to work together to form policy, and are more inclined to look favorably on bipartisan legislation.”
To help get the package across the finish line, CCL’s Government Affairs staff members directly lobbied congressional offices in support of the legislation. In addition to Danny, Senior Director of Government Affairs Ben Pendergrass and Director of Government Affairs Jen Tyler met with offices to convey CCL’s stance that there were valuable climate provisions in the bill, and they expressed CCL’s support for its passage.
Our D.C. staff also sent several “whip emails” to congressional offices, indicating CCL’s support of the BIF and urging offices to vote in favor when it came to the floor.
At the end of the day, Ben says, his takeaway from BIF’s passage is this: “Big, bipartisan things can get done.” CCL has always pushed for climate change to be a bridge issue between the parties, rather than a wedge issue, and the success of this bipartisan package is another step toward that reality.
We’re encouraged to see the climate provisions included in this infrastructure legislation, and we’re proud of the work our volunteers did to help build additional support and push this across the finish line.
But it’s clear that much more legislation is needed to keep America’s promise of reducing our climate-changing emissions 50% by 2030. That’s why our volunteers have been persistent in contacting the Senate, the House, and President Biden in recent months, urging them all to support a price on carbon in the next big piece of legislation on the table: the budget reconciliation bill, also referred to as the “Build Back Better” bill.
And the latest news on that front is incredibly promising. Just this weekend, Bloomberg reported that 49 senators, the House, and the White House are all on board with a carbon fee in the budget. “We have 49 out of 50 votes” from Democrats in the Senate, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told the journalist. If the Senate passes it, he said, “the House has assured us they will also pass it, and the White House has assured us the president will sign it into law.”
As Tony reminded volunteers, “We would not be seeing this level of support in Congress without all the work of CCLers both in the last few weeks and months, and over the last decade of advocacy. You all are amazing!”
Have you reached out to your senators and representative yet? Visit cclusa.org/action for easy online tools you can use to make your voice heard today.
Let’s celebrate securing some climate wins in the infrastructure bill, and let’s keep the momentum going for a budget bill that delivers the emissions cuts we need.