What to Know in Washington: Biden Sets Climate Damage Goals

The Biden administration today released a report laying out its broad ambitions for how the federal government will seek to shield the U.S. economy and financial system from threats posed by climate change.

“This road map is a first step in a whole-of-government effort to meet the president’s goals of mitigating the economic risks of climate change while seizing the economic opportunities that it presents,” Gina McCarthy, the national climate adviser, said yesterday during a call with reporters.

The report laid out five main areas:

  • Promoting the resilience of the financial system;
  • Protecting pensions and savings from climate-related financial risk;
  • Making federal government procurement decisions with climate in mind;
  • Including climate-related risk in federal lending and underwriting; and
  • Bolstering infrastructure and communities by encouraging more resilient land use and construction practices.

The report is an early stage response to an executive order issued by President Joe Biden in May calling on federal agencies to identify and address climate-related financial risks to the government and to the U.S. economy. Its release comes a little more than two weeks before the United Nations climate change summit begins in Scotland. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

The $100 Billion Hurdle to a Climate Breakthrough: A $100 billion dividing line between the world’s richest and poorest countries threatens to undermine any hope for a grand deal at the COP26 climate negotiations. That’s the amount in annual contributions promised more than a decade ago by developed nations to help less well-off nations cut planet-warming emissions and adapt to climate change. It’s one half of a quid pro quo agreed in 2015 at United Nations-sponsored talks in Paris: Developed countries put up the cash, and in return poor countries invest in clean-energy technologies and resiliency projects such as flood defenses.

Ahead of the next global summit, held in Glasgow, Scotland, advanced economies have come up short. Read more from John Ainger.

Obama to Attend U.N. Climate Summit: Former President Barack Obama plans to attend the U.N. climate summit next month in Glasgow as the White House looks to flood the pivotal meeting with dignitaries to demonstrate U.S. commitment to curb global warming. Obama will meet with young activists and deliver remarks on the threat posed by climate change during his time in Scotland, his office said in a statement. Biden is planning a show of force at the summit, attending himself along with at least a dozen top American officials. Read more from Justin Sink.

Happening on the Hill


In the Senate: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will tee up a floor vote for Wednesday on advancing a Democrat-drafted overhaul of U.S. election laws, a move that is likely to be blocked by Republicans and set up another confrontation over whether to alter or end the filibuster, Laura Litvan reports. In a letter to all Senate Democrats, Schumer said he will take steps Monday to set up the vote for later in the week on “consequential voting rights legislation that has the support of our entire caucus.”

Read more:

In the House: The House could consider three labor-related bills: Workplace accommodations for nursing mothers — such as reasonable break times and private lactation areas — would be expanded under H.R. 3110 (see the BGOV Bill Summary). Employers would be prohibited from limiting, segregating, or classifying job applicants based on their age under H.R. 3992 (see the BGOV Bill Summary). Federal domestic violence prevention and services grants would be reauthorized at a level of $270 million annually from fiscal 2022 through 2026 under H.R. 2119 (see the BGOV Bill Summary).


Democrats Shift Expectations for Drug Pricing: Democratic leaders say they’re eyeing a less aggressive drug pricing proposal in their broad tax and social spending legislation, which may offer some relief to drugmakers concerned about the original plan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told California’s KQED Wednesday she doesn’t expect her own signature drug-pricing bill to be included in a sweeping domestic spending package being developed by lawmakers. Now, much remains unknown about what kind of drug pricing efforts the Democratic caucus can rally behind. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

Bills to Avoid ‘Telehealth Cliff’ Delayed by Higher Priorities: Lawmakers are struggling to push widely supported legislation that would end the “telehealth cliff” through a logjam created by their intense focus on more divisive priorities—such as the Democratic spending package, bipartisan infrastructure bill, addressing the debt ceiling and funding the government. “There’s not much oxygen in the room, even for an issue of agreement,” said Kyle Zebley, vice president of public policy for the American Telemedicine Association. Read more from Allie Reed.

Delay in Naming Head of EPA’s Air Office Triggers Pushback: The official heading up major climate change initiatives at the EPA still hasn’t been nominated for the job, and at least one pivotal lawmaker has started to take notice. Joe Goffman, the acting head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, has been at the helm of the agency’s most consequential climate rules, including vehicle emission standards and the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons. But the air office chief is also the only EPA political job requiring Senate confirmation that doesn’t have a nominee. Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told Bloomberg Law she’s not happy that no air office pick has been sent to the committee for vetting. Read more from Stephen Lee and Jennifer Hijazi.

In the Courts

Panel Draft Sees No Legal Obstacle to Expand Top Court: Biden’s panel considering reforms to the Supreme Court wrote favorably of creating term limits for the high court and concluded in draft findings that while it would be legal to add justices, it may not be wise. “Unmistakably, the overall trend over the last three decades has been toward more partisan conflict, which has affected nominations to the lower courts, as well as the Supreme Court,” the initial analysis by the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States concludes, after recounting battles over former President Donald Trump’s three nominees to the court.

In a study of the issue of the size of the court, a subcommittee concludes that “we do not believe there is a formal legal obstacle to expansion of the Supreme Court,” but adds that whether justices should be added “as a prudential matter presents a more difficult question.” Read more from Jennifer Epstein, Jennifer Jacobs and Greg Stohr.

  • Progressive activists reacted with little enthusiasm for the findings. “This preliminary report is exactly what we knew it would be. It’s a mix between a book report and an extended explanation that different people have different feelings about Court reform,” said Molly Coleman, executive director of People’s Parity Project. “We know that real people are being hurt right now by the Supreme Court, and we know that the only way to alleviate much of that suffering is to expand the Supreme Court.” Madison Alder has more reactions.

Court Fight Over Revival of Trump Border Policy: The Biden administration is prepared to restart a Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” border policy next month, despite its opposition to the program and immigration advocates’ arguments that it’s inhumane. The Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to reinstate the policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, comes after a federal judge said the Biden administration’s rollback earlier this year short-circuited the administrative process. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Hybrid Format Leads to Longer SCOTUS Arguments: The Supreme Court has taken a more lax approach to time limits since returning to in-person arguments this month and that’s leading to longer sessions. The justices exceeded the scheduled time in seven of the nine cases they heard in the October sitting, with the bench going more than 30 minutes over the allotted time in the case of the Boston Marathon bomber. The longer arguments are primarily due to the partly virtual court format. Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson has more.

Around the Administration

Today’s Agenda: Biden travels to Connecticut today to speak about his economic agenda. The president will deliver remarks in Hartford at 1:45 p.m. At 4 p.m., Biden will speak at the dedication of the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. He is scheduled to return to the White House at 7 p.m.

Biden Signs Measure Raising the Debt Limit: Biden signed a bill that provides a short-term increase in the U.S. debt limit, the White House said last night. His signature on the legislation, approved by the House on Tuesday night and narrowly by the Senate last week, averts the imminent threat of a financial calamity. But the bill allows the Treasury Department to meets its financial obligations only until roughly Dec. 3, meaning another bitter partisan confrontation will likely unfold in a matter of weeks. Read more from Jennifer Epstein and John Harney.

Treasury’s Liang Outlines Stablecoin Regulatory Approach: Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang said that U.S. financial regulators have focused on stablecoins because of the central role they’ve begun playing in the world of cryptocurrencies. “We believe they’re kind of foundational to crypto and future crypto services,” Liang said yesterday at an event sponsored by the Institute of International Finance. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Labor No. 2 Says ‘Equity Lens’ Frames Biden Agenda: Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su is taking workplace equity as a personal mission in shaping the Biden administration’s policies. In her first public event since joining the Labor Department in July, the civil rights attorney and former California labor secretary outlined her role as primarily to support Biden’s and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s agenda, which include making “the workplace laws of our country meaningful and real in the lives of America’s workers.” Ben Penn has more.

Green Card Backlog Gets Bipartisan Attention: Immigrants in line for a green card for years or decades have new hope that chronic backlogs will finally be addressed as lawmakers from both parties and the Biden administration train their sights on the issue. Green card recapture proposals may have a better chance than broad immigration measures because they wouldn’t create a new legalization program, said Kristie De Peña, vice president for policy and director of immigration at the Niskanen Center. Republicans have also expressed interest in salvaging lost green cards. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer and Andrew Kreighbaum.

DOJ’s Environment Chief to Focus on Low-Income: The Justice Department is working on an enforcement strategy specifically meant to help low-income communities of color, the agency’s top environmental prosecutor said yesterday. Todd Kim, assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, didn’t provide details, but the emergence of a targeted environmental justice strategy confirms that DOJ is on board with the president’s pledge to bring “timely and effective relief” to overburdened communities, Kim said. Read more from Stephen Lee and Jennifer Hijazi.

U.S. Shifting Pandemic Tracking Back to CDC: The Biden administration is moving the U.S. government’s largest public-health tracking system back to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, undoing a much-criticized move by the Trump administration to shift custody of critical data from the nation’s top epidemiological agency. According to a document obtained by Bloomberg News, HHS on Oct. 1 signed off on a recommendation to move the system, designed to track pandemic data, out of the management of its own Office of the Chief Information Officer and into CDC’s oversight. Read more from Riley Griffin.

Politics & Influence

Senate Democrats Seek Money Advantages for Midterms: Democratic Senate contenders are raking in cash in states where the party hopes to add seats next year despite the potential for political headwinds. Rep. Val Demings set the pace by announcing she raised $8.4 million in the third quarter for her challenge in Florida to Sen. Marco Rubio. The two-term Republican’s campaign said it raised $6 million in that time. Some Democrats vying for GOP-held open seats also amassed large sums, with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman saying he raised $2.7 million and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan raising $2.5 million. These offensive opportunities are critical for Democrats as they seek to tighten their grip on the 50-50 Senate in the midterm elections, both to increase their majority and if necessary offset any losses by their own vulnerable incumbents. But historical electoral trouble for the party controlling the White House appears possible again. Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.

Youngkin Distances From Capitol Riot Sympathizers: Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for Virginia governor, sought to distance himself from a rally where former President Donald Trump endorsed him and attendees pledged allegiance to an American flag connected to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The incident happened at an event headlined by Stephen Bannon, an ex-adviser to Trump, to turn out conservative voters. Trump himself called in by phone and offered an endorsement of Youngkin. Read more from Emma Kinery.

Bill Clinton Being Treated for Infection: Former President Bill Clinton has been hospitalized in California with a “non-Covid-related infection,” a spokesman said last night. Clinton, 75, was admitted to UCI Medical Center on Tuesday evening, according to the spokesman, Angel Urena, who added that “he is on the mend and in good spirits.” Urena’s brief statement provided no other details, John Harney reports.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com