How the 2020 election results could impact CCL’s work

How the 2020 election results could impact CCL’s work

By Tony Sirna, CCL Strategy Director

As we head into the general election season, I know that many of us are thinking about what the election results might imply for CCL’s work. What role would CCL play if Democrats win the White House and the Senate and begin to work on a climate package? How would CCL continue to advance climate solutions if President Trump wins a second term? For the last several months, CCL staff have been putting our heads together on strategic planning to answer those very questions.

Of course, nobody can predict exactly how the election will turn out or what all the dynamics will be next year, but there are a few scenarios more likely than others. We explored three possible scenarios:

  • Democratic president with a Republican majority in the Senate
  • Republican president with a Republican majority in the Senate
  • Democratic president with a Democratic majority in the Senate

(In each scenario, we assume that Democrats would maintain control of the House.)

Here’s a window into our thinking on each scenario. Of course, our thinking will continue to evolve as things move from uncertain to more clarity, but it is not too early to start strategizing.

Democratic president with a Republican majority in the Senate

In a scenario where Joe Biden is president and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, we assume that any climate package would need 60 votes to move through the Senate, as well as agreement from the Senate Majority Leader to bring it to the floor. This would mean getting at least 11 Republican senators supporting a bill, and them working to persuade Republican leadership to bring a bill forward. 

Though it would continue to be difficult to move climate legislation through a divided Congress, there are a few reasons to be optimistic: a growing number of Republican members of Congress favor action on climate, and Republican members of Congress are feeling pressure from young Republican voters.

CCL’s approach to climate advocacy will be key to getting major climate legislation passed in this scenario. For years, our volunteers have built trusting, respectful relationships with congressional offices on both sides of the aisle. We can bring those relationships to bear while continuing to motivate members of Congress through local media, endorsements from prominent community members, and more. 

To increase the likelihood of success in this scenario, we would continue to diversify our political base at the grassroots and build grasstops support in order to bring members of both parties together to support carbon fee and dividend. (Diversifying our volunteer base is a goal of ours no matter what, but would be key to success in this scenario.)

Republican president with a Republican majority in the Senate

If President Trump wins a second term and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, moving significant climate legislation through Congress would be a challenge—one we’re familiar with since the 2016 election. We will continue to have a President who is hostile to climate legislation. 

After the 2016 election, CCL began devoting some resources to state-level climate work, and in recent years has been a part of significant successes. In this post-2020 scenario, we would continue with our federal efforts to pass carbon fee and dividend, and we would likely expand our efforts with state and municipal climate policy work, and other smaller scale bipartisan federal climate legislation. 

We will also continue to work to diversify our volunteer base, welcoming even more climate-concerned conservatives, who can effectively lobby Republican members of Congress. Even with a presidential administration that does not lead on climate, progress is possible if we have Congressional support.

Democratic president with a Democratic majority in the Senate

If Joe Biden wins the presidency and the Senate flips to Democratic control, this would be very different from our work in a divided Congress which we’ve had for most of the last 10 years. Given the strong support for climate action from the electorate, major climate legislation would be almost certain to move forward in this scenario. Given the expected state of the economy, there will also be a focus on jobs and economic relief.

As you may know, it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, but it can be removed at any time if the majority votes to remove it. The threat of this Senate rule change could motivate some Senators (both Republicans and Democrats) to try to find a common ground bill that they could get 60 votes on. Others may push for a path that only requires 51 Democratic votes and a removal of the filibuster, so there could be competing efforts/bills.

True to our values, CCL would focus our efforts on supporting a bipartisan 60-vote package, which would help the long term durability of the policy. We would also work simultaneously to make sure that any climate package that moves through Congress includes a carbon fee and dividend. Ideally, we can manifest a climate solution that reduces emissions, protects the poor, and meets CCL’s value of nonpartisanship. 

As legislation moves, we will have to quickly evaluate the legislation and determine CCL’s position. We will continually evaluate what is best for our mission of creating the political will for a stable and sustainable climate.

What you can do today

  • Vote. With a few weeks still to go before Election Day, you can make sure you’re registered to vote and make a plan to cast your ballot. You can also help encourage other environmentalists to vote by working with the Environmental Voter Project, as many CCLers are.
  • Build grasstops support. In any scenario, we want to show strong support for the Energy Innovation Act. Check out our trainings on grasstops engagement, and help influential members of your community get on board for climate action.
  • Learn and lobby with us. CCL’s next conference and lobby day takes place Dec. 5-6. By then, we’ll know which scenario we’re in, and you’ll hear the latest analysis and action plans from our legislative team. We’ll also hold virtual lobby meetings with hundreds of congressional offices, pushing for the kind of climate action we need in the new Congress. Hope to see you there!

Have questions, or want to weigh in? Join CCL’s Strategic Planning Action Team to share your thoughts.