Leaving climate provisions out infrastructure package is bad policy — and bad politics
The bipartisan infrastructure package that the White House endorsed last week looked markedly different from the ambitious climate agenda President BidenJoe BidenJohn Kerry to visit Moscow officials to discuss ‘global climate ambition’ Civil rights leaders find meeting with WH ‘encouraging’ amidst voting rights battle Pentagon eyes places to send Afghan interpreters as Biden pledges evacuations by end of July MORE touted on the campaign trail. Key provisions that progressives lauded Biden for including in his campaign platform and the American Jobs Plan, including investments to spur clean energy development, create a Civilian Climate Corps, and address systemic environmental injustices, were all noticeably absent from the deal that emerged from weeks of bipartisan negotiations behind closed doors. If the White House fails to include these critical investments in a reconciliation package, this would not only be bad policy, but also bad politics.
We work at Data for Progress, a progressive polling firm and think-tank, where we run polling and message testing on the top political and policy questions of the day. Our latest polling with Climate Power finds that the climate provisions in the American Jobs Plan (AJP) actually make the American Jobs Plan more popular — even among independents and Republicans.
We asked voters several questions about the American Jobs Plan, first framing the package as “President Biden’s proposal to invest in America’s workforce and infrastructure” and then asking voters whether or not they supported the bill. Initially, without any additional information, voters supported the American Jobs Plan by a 23-percentage-point margin (57 percent support, 34 percent oppose). Next, we again asked voters again whether they supported or opposed the American Jobs Plan, but this time included descriptions of the key climate and clean energy components of the bill, including replacing all lead pipes, investing in American energy innovation, and building new renewable energy projects. When provided with these details, support among all voters increased to a 35-point margin (65 percent support, 30 percent oppose). Notably, there were significant increases in support among Independents and Republicans.
Lastly, we asked voters about the ongoing bipartisan negotiations that lawmakers in Congress are having about the infrastructure package. We found that two-thirds of voters (66 percent) agree that it is “Very” or “Somewhat” important to keep investments that will create clean energy jobs in the final version of the American Jobs Plan that passes in Congress.
These findings make it abundantly clear that voters support an infrastructure package that includes ambitious investments to tackle the climate crisis rather than one that does not include investments that meet the moment. This is likely because bipartisan majorities of voters believe that the climate provisions in the American Jobs Plan will positively impact their communities.
Democrats would be wise to heed these findings and adapt their public messaging accordingly. While Democrats are pursuing the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure deal, they should make their votes contingent on passing an ambitious reconciliation package that includes the popular climate provisions that were stripped from the bipartisan deal. Some elected officials are already leading the way by pledging to vote no on an infrastructure package that doesn’t include climate as part of the “No Climate, No Deal” campaign led by Evergreen Action and the Sunrise Movement.
These elected officials and groups understand that the climate crisis is the most pressing infrastructure challenge our nation faces. As such, an infrastructure package that doesn’t center climate, isn’t much of an infrastructure package at all. But even if you ignore this (which you shouldn’t) and look strictly at the politics and polling, it’s clear that passing a climate-focused infrastructure package is the only electorally viable path forward for Democrats. Democrats are heading into 2022 with history stacked against them — over the last decade the party in power has only come out on top in the midterms two times — so they should be firing on all cylinders to make the case to voters that Democrats deliver results that will positively and directly impact voters’ lives.
Rather than shying away from a fight, Democrats should confidently lean into the climate components of an infrastructure package. These components are popular and voters believe they will positively impact their communities — exactly what Democrats should be doing to ensure continued electoral success. If Democrats want to stand a chance in 2022 and beyond, they must stop accepting the demands of Republican leaders gathered behind closed doors and instead listen to the millions of voters across America who elected President Biden and support an ambitious, climate-focused infrastructure package. This is our chance to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime investment in our economy and communities. The political risk Democrats face is not in going too big on climate — it’s in going too small. Voters agree.
Marcela Mulholland is the Political Director at Data for Progress. Danielle Deiseroth is a Senior Climate Analyst at Data for Progress.