The Inflation Reduction Act passed by the House of Representatives today is set to become the first comprehensive climate law in US history. Compared to Congress’ past brazen stance on the issue, the numbers are startling: Legislation would cost about $374 billion in decarbonization and climate resilience over the next 10 years, taking us two-thirds of the way to America’s Paris Agreement goals .
But perhaps the most important number about the package is zero. Zero Republicans in the House of Representatives. Zero Republicans in the Senate. The IRA was fully adopted along the party line, with all Democrats and not a single Republican in Congress supporting the legislation.
The numbers show an unmistakable reality: Even after years of efforts by environmentalists, climate change remains a decidedly partisan issue in America. The bill passed only because 50 Democrats sat in the Senate, with a Democratic vice president casting a deciding vote. What if one of those Democrats had lost their election — say, Joe Manchin had chosen to run for re-election in his heavily Republican home state in 2018, or if the Democrats hadn’t won two Senate wins in Georgia last year? Should have – so Bill wouldn’t have made it across the finish line.
Every Republican in Congress who has publicly committed to some of the climate action has supported the measure. The Republicans in the House of Representatives also failed to score points at the Climate Solutions Caucus. Utah Senator Mitt Romney who recently wrote the Atlantic That the US “denies” the magnitude of the climate threat opposed the bill, as did Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a liberal who has spoken out about how climate change is transforming her state. Is.
Granted, the Inflation Reduction Act isn’t just a climate law, and Republicans oppose it for reasons that go beyond climate policy. During last week’s congressional debate, GOP lawmakers generally spent more time on the bill’s tax and health provisions than on its energy measures. “Today, Democrats are going back to their same tired playbook of raising taxes, spending more money and expanding the size of government,” Romney said in a statement after his vote. “Rather than listening to the inflation-stricken American people, Democrats voted for a liberal wish list.” His testimony makes only one reference to climate regulations, claiming that the IRA is “undermining oil and gas production.”
The GOP’s inertia comes despite years of efforts aimed at getting Republicans to ratify climate policy. Ever since Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, first introduced a cap-and-trade bill in 2003, environmentalists have hoped the parties would come together to address the issue. can come. It never worked: Even McCain resisted climate talks during the Obama presidency.
Republican-led climate efforts have also failed. Ever since the George HW Bush administration, the fossil fuel faction of the GOP has viewed climate policy as an existential threat that must be stopped at all costs. In 2017, a group of GOP greybeards backed a revenue-neutral carbon tax as a sufficiently conservative solution to the climate problem. But the party refused when it rewrote portions of the tax code the following year.
And President Donald Trump went further, arguing that fossil fuels, particularly coal, are not a natural resource with environmental and economic tradeoffs, but a positive net good that should be embraced wholeheartedly.
GOP is not ready Completely Unwillingness to deal with climate issues. Republicans prefer smaller, incremental bills that address more limited aspects of the climate problem. If you look there, a more hopeful glimpse unfolds through the line, Carlos Carbello, a former member of the Republican House of Representatives from South Florida who tried to secure a carbon tax deal while he was in Congress, told me.
“Up until Munchkin-Schumer, there was an unmistakable trend in Congress toward bipartisan climate action,” Carbello said. He cited a string of small victories – a big energy bill for 2020; a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a category of climate superpollutants; and climate provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement – showing that politics is gaining momentum. “It was a partisan process from the start; All arbitrations are invoices. We shouldn’t read too much of Republican opposition to this bill,” he said. “And what’s more likely is that once it’s behind us, the trend will start again.”
While Republicans are now squeamish about the bill, it’s possible they “could get a little more creative behind the scenes,” Kristin Eberhard, director of climate policy at the Niscan Center, a libertarian think tank with Liberal roots, told me. Said. Last year, Washington state Republicans voted unanimously against an ambitious cap-and-trade bill, but then helped create a more productive successor to the bill, she said.
This may not be the case in national politics, which is far more ideological and acrimonious than the West Coast statehouse. But national Republicans will have the opportunity to work with Democrats on climate if they wish, he noted. As part of his deal with Senator Joe Manchin on the IRA, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to introduce a bill to the Senate to relax some environmental permit requirements. Allowing reform was a key issue in climate policy announced by House Republicans earlier this year.
But if the GOP maintains its staunch opposition to any significant climate policy, there could be complications with the IRA in the future. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law early next week, but can Republicans ever reverse it? In a way, this question is meaningless. Congress can do anything within its constitutional limits. The Senate’s geography contrasts with the current Democrat coalition demographic, and there’s a good chance the GOP will take over the chamber in November. If Republicans win 60 votes in the Senate, creating a filibuster-proof majority, no chances are barred. And Biden’s approval rating is nearing historic lows, opening the door for a Republican to win the White House in two years.
But some parts of an IRA will be much more difficult to reverse than others. By January 2025, when Biden’s first term ends, tens of millions of dollars from the bill will already have been spent. “There’s a lot that can start in two years, and a lot can be planned, and some steel will be in the ground,” Nathan Iyer, a fellow at RMI, a non-partisan energy think tank, told me. Said. Any infrastructure built by 2025 — new solar farms, wind turbines, factories — must be demolished or heavily taxed to be decommissioned once Republicans take power.
However, many important measures will not be implemented until the end of 2024. For example, the new clean power tax credits, which are expected to account for a significant portion of the bill’s emissions reductions, won’t come into effect until 2025. Once this policy is in full effect. So removing them may increase utility bills and discourage Republicans from repeal, but a Republican White House may be able to act before that time. (A less complete version of the policy, applicable only to certain zero-carbon technologies, will already be in place.)
Iyer said it was possible for Republicans to reverse those provisions, but that it didn’t seem possible until “a strong ideological reputation” developed to destroy the entire package. During the Trump administration, Republicans have not eroded the old renewable-only version of the tax credit, although it has diminished its value. And Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite years of insisting they try.
Iyer said that by 2025, although clean energy facilities have yet to open, many constructions will be underway. Chances are that most of these new features will be in red states. lately Bloomberg The poll found that the congressional districts with the most planned wind, solar and battery capacity are Republican-led; The states run by the GOP also dominate the manufacturing industry. Repealing the IRA would also eliminate expanded carbon capture and subsidies that oil companies are already banking on.
Iyer said when clean energy companies are groundbreaking or investing in GOP districts, they need to be aware of what policies are enabling their new facilities. As long as Republicans can undo the IRA, their constituents could be the ones whose jobs are at stake.