With his threat of executive action looming, President Biden will speak Wednesday in Massachusetts about what the White House is calling a “climate crisis” after Sen. Joe Manchin obliterated Biden’s plans for new environmental spending.
The White House was pressed Tuesday on when or if Biden might declare a national emergency related to climate — amid myriad crises confronting the administration and Americans including inflation, record gas prices and the ongoing border surge — to unilaterally redirect funds.
“President Biden will travel to Somerset, Massachusetts [to] deliver remarks on tackling the climate crisis and seizing the opportunity of a clean energy future to create jobs and lower costs for families,” the White House said in a statement.
But press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a Tuesday afternoon briefing that there would be no decision this week on whether to declare an “emergency” related to global warming to strengthen Biden’s ability to unilaterally redirect funds and issue rules.
“Everything is on the table. It’s just not going to be this week on that decision,” Jean-Pierre said amid a heat wave impacting parts of Europe and North America.
Senate Democrats had hoped to pare down the stalled nearly $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, which can pass the upper chamber with a bare majority under special budget reconciliation rules. Manchin’s opposition killed the plan because Democrats hold just 50 Senate seats and Republicans oppose the package.
Manchin is reviled by environmental activists for his investments and former career in the coal industry and on Tuesday told a reporter “just get out of my way if you will” as the journalist sought his opinion on Biden declaring a national emergency.
Manchin in December halted the Build Back Better Act, which included $555 billion for environmental programs, citing worsening inflation.
The stalled Build Back Better Act proposed $12,500 rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles, among other initiatives. White House counselor Steve Ricchetti’s brother, Jeff Ricchetti, was paid $280,000 since last year to lobby for General Motors, which produces electric vehicles that have been promoted by Biden.
But critics argue the vehicles, which average near $70,000, are out of reach for most Americans, especially during this inflationary period.
It’s unclear what Biden would seek to accomplish by declaring an emergency. Former President Donald Trump declared an emergency in 2019 to redirect about $8 billion toward building a US-Mexico border wall.
Energy & Environment News pointed to an analysis by University of California at Berkeley law professor Dan Farber that said an emergency would allow a president to suspend oil drilling leases or direct the military to move toward more environmentally friendly projects and use of electric vehicles.
Farber said it might also be possible to impose rules to restrict “automobile and truck use to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases” — though it’s possible that industry groups or Republican-led states would file lawsuits seeking to halt such policies.
Biden is unlikely to try a crackdown on the oil industry. Although he last year sought to pause new drilling permits while axing new oil pipelines, Biden since March has urged companies to pump more petroleum and refine more gasoline as high prices contribute to a collapse in his approval rating, including among core Democratic-leaning groups, such as young adults and Hispanics.
Biden has outlined ambitious environmental plans in past remarks. He said in April he would “start the process where every vehicle in the United States military — every vehicle is going to be climate-friendly. Every vehicle. No, I mean it. We’re spending billions of dollars to do it.”
Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, which he signed in November, included $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle charging stations. The administration is beginning to disburse funds to install charging stations every 50 miles along major highways. That bill also included $5 billion for electric and low-emission buses.