What to Know in Washington: Biden Set to Order Climate Measures

Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.

President Joe Biden will sign a series of executive actions today to combat climate change, including temporarily blocking new leases for oil drilling on federal lands and ordering other measures to overhaul U.S. energy, according to people familiar with the plan.

Biden will call on federal agencies to consider climate change in their decision-making on everything from government purchases to financial regulations, the people said. He will also direct U.S. intelligence agencies to consider global warming as they review national security threats, added the people, who asked not to be identified before the announcement.

The White House declined to comment on the plans but the president’s public schedule for today says at 1:30 p.m. he will deliver remarks and “sign executive actions on tackling climate change, creating jobs and restoring scientific integrity.” There are also briefings scheduled by John Kerry, the special presidential envoy for climate, as well as Gina McCarthy, the national climate adviser.

The president’s announcements come as his administration has made climate change one of its top priorities — seeking to marshal the entire federal government to combat the crisis. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter.

Photographer: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg
Biden at the White House on Tuesday.

Biden Has a Sprawling Team of Experts to Fight Climate Change: Past presidents—even progressive ones—have viewed climate change as a problem for the future. President Barack Obama, for example, “took the view that climate change was a moral issue,” said Jeff Burnam, an adjunct professor at American University who previously served as a senior legislative staffer in the U.S. House and Senate. “At the time, that was the idea—what are we going to do about our children?”

Especially following a year when wildfires caused record levels of destruction along one U.S. coast while hurricanes pummeled another, Biden doesn’t have that luxury. Already he’s assembled an unprecedented team of White House climate advisers and installed climate experts in roles that haven’t typically been thought to require environmental expertise, a sign that environmental policy will be central to his administration’s agenda.

Elizabeth Elkin has a brief guide to who’s on Biden’s team and what they’re doing there. Read more.

More on Biden’s Agenda

UN Pick Warns of China’s ‘Authoritarian Agenda’: Biden’s nominee for United Nations ambassador will pledge to restore American leadership, warning that its absence in recent years has allowed China to fill the void. “When America shows up, when we are consistent and persistent, when we exert our influence in accordance with our values, the United Nations can be an indispensable institution for advancing peace, security, and our collective well-being,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield will say at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, according to excerpts of her prepared remarks. Read more from David Wainer.

Energy Confirmation Hearing Likely to Focus on Jobs: Employment in the energy sector will be a major theme a today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nomination of Jennifer Granholm to be Biden’s secretary of energy, Kellie Lunney reports. Granholm can expect a grilling from Republican senators such as Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) on the Biden administration’s position on traditional and renewable energy sources, and how department policy will affect jobs in big energy-producing states. “Senator Barrasso has stressed the importance of promoting American energy security, economic strength, and environmental stewardship to Governor Granholm,” said Barrasso spokeswoman Sarah Durdaller yesterday. “He wants to hear more about her commitment to all American energy sources and the jobs they support.” Read more in today’s BGOV Energy Briefing.

Yellen Cites Treasury-Fed Coordination in New Crisis Campaign: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighted the past coordination between her new department and her previous fiefdom, the Federal Reserve, as she sought to rally the agency’s staff in battling an array of crises besetting the nation. “Economics isn’t just something you find in a textbook,” she wrote in a memo to the 84,000 Treasury Department workers that was released yesterday. “Economic policy can be a potent tool to improve society. We can — and should — use it to address inequality, racism and climate change,” which along with Covid-19 are the four crises Biden has identified, she said. Read more from Saleha Mohsin.

Moves to Boost Vaccines Won’t Sate Demand: The Biden administration’s move yesterday to boost the supply of Covid-19 vaccines in coming weeks amounts to opening the faucet a little wider: Even with the extra flow, demand for the shots will still swamp supply for months unless the U.S. can open another spigot. Biden said the U.S. would ship at least 10 million doses for the next three weeks, a 16% increase over the current level. That pace means tens of millions of Americans who are now eligible for the shot — those 65 and older in many states — will still have to wait. Read more from John Tozzi, Riley Griffin and Josh Wingrove.

Retroactive Tax Hikes Aren’t a ‘First Choice’: The Biden administration isn’t actively considering retroactive tax increases, which fail to give individuals and businesses time to respond to the higher rates, a Treasury Department official said. “You want to have a tax system where people — taxpayers — can react to the increases in the tax system so that they can change their behavior,” Mark Mazur, the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for tax policy, said yesterday at an American Bar Association virtual event. “When you do retroactive tax increases that’s not possible. That tends to be not the first choice.” Read more from Laura Davison.

Texas Deportation Victory is a Warning Sign: A Texas ruling temporarily blocking Biden’s plan to pause deportations of undocumented immigrants for 100 days highlights the risk the new administration’s agenda faces from a potential flood of Republican-led lawsuits, legal experts say. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) yesterday won a 14-day nationwide restraining order against the initiative when U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton ruled the freeze potentially violates federal immigration law. The judge, a Trump appointee, also ruled the pause may have been rolled out without a reasonable explanation, making it “arbitrary and capricious.” That’s the same legal standard — part of the Administrative Procedure Act — that was frequently used by Democratic state attorneys general to halt an array of Trump’s initiatives in their tracks. Read more from Erik Larson.

Happening on the Hill

Trump’s Trial Lets GOP Talk Optics: U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts’s refusal to preside over Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is giving Republicans an opportunity to focus on the Senate’s process rather than the specifics of the insurrection charge against the former president. Roberts’s decision to skip the trial leaves a Democrat already on the record as favoring conviction, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), overseeing the trial when it gets underway the week of Feb. 8.

Republicans are seizing on Roberts’s absence to question the trial’s legitimacy and deflect attention from the substantive charge that Trump incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The increasingly partisan nature of the debate was on display Tuesday, when 45 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans supported an unsuccessful bid to declare the case unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. Read more from Greg Stohr, Mike Dorning and Kimberly Robinson.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has been discussing with colleagues a possible resolution censuring former Trump over his role in stoking the mob that stormed the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Such a rebuke wouldn’t carry a direct penalty for the former president but would have some political consequence if he seeks office again and further tarnish his legacy. Democrats in the House have also discussed a censure resolution, Laura Litvan reports.
  • Leahy was discharged after not feeling well and going to a D.C.-area hospital yesterday, spokesman David Carle said in a statement. As president pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in line for the presidency, after the vice president and the speaker of the House. Carle said Leahy was taken to the hospital out of “an abundance of caution.”

Democrats Work to Move Quickly on Stimulus: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’s ready to start moving on a Democrat-only Covid-19 relief plan as soon as next week if Republicans continue to reject Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal. “In keeping our options open, on our caucus call today I informed senators to be prepared that a vote on a budget resolution could come as early as next week,” Schumer said at a press briefing yesterday, Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson report.

A budget resolution is the first step toward a so-called reconciliation bill, which allows the Senate to proceed on a simple-majority vote basis — avoiding the need for 60 votes to cut off the filibuster. It makes all the difference given the chamber’s partisan 50-50 split. The House would also need to pass a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions.

The House has reworked its schedule for February, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told colleagues in a letter, as that chamber also considers work on a budget resolution.

The House will return next week for a session that could extend into the weekend, according to Hoyer. That will be followed by two “committee work weeks,” during which there will be no floor activity. Hoyer said lawmakers should also expect further changes, with Democrats working on a virus relief package ahead of the expiration of some unemployment benefits on March 14. Find the latest House calendar from Hoyer here.

Manchin Didn’t Ask to Be a Kingmaker: The success or failure of Biden’s presidency was always going to hinge on the Senate. But the senator poised to determine that outcome isn’t the one everybody expected. In the weeks after the election, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the presumed Republican majority leader, looked to be the critical figure, with the power and willingness to frustrate the new administration’s lofty ambitions. But Democrats’ upset victories in the twin Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia gave them a 50-50 split and control of the Senate, bumping McConnell into the minority and shifting the spotlight to someone else: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Joshua Green profiles the most conservative Democratic senator, who has high hopes of productive bipartisanship.

To contact the reporter on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com; Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com

Stay informed with more news like this – from the largest team of reporters on Capitol Hill – subscribe to Bloomberg Government today. Learn more.

Top