Inside D.C.

Keep moving, nothing to see on climate, infrastructure

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) and her leadership lieutenants have moved into solid November election mode, dumping massive legislative packages and reports alleging to remedy serious issues, shoving some through floor votes fully aware they have no chance of becoming law, i.e. solving any problems or challenges. 

The best that can be said is the packages lay down markers which will inform debate over these serious issues going into the election to determine which party controls one or both houses of Congress and who ultimately, sits in the Oval Office.  Nothing substantive will happen until the next Congress is seated and the White House victor makes his will known beginning in 2021.  The bad news is the efforts demonstrate the same old mind set, the tired strategy of single-party backroom invention in order to force the other party to either embrace or reject.

This lack of progressive or innovative thinking is by no means the exclusive condition of the Democrats.  Republicans are equally adept at striving to put their opposition between a political/program rock and a hard place.  At the same time, while Democrats have seemingly never encountered an issue for which they could not muster a solution of some kind, Republicans are the masters/mistresses of ignoring issues in hopes they’ll simply go away. 

As for Pelosi’s strategy, first came the $1.5-trillion “infrastructure” investment bill unveiled June 18, the merger of two Democrat approaches to fulfilling one of Pelosi’s longstanding public commitments.  The House approved the bill – liberally laced with social and climate change predicates – on a party-line vote July 2.  Interestingly, Pelosi shares her zeal to invest in road, bridge, airport and commuter system repairs and modernization with President Trump, though personality and political wrangling have forestalled any meaningful attempt to come up with a bipartisan approach.   

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) who dubbed the House effort the “Green New Deal masquerading as a highway bill,’ says his chamber will focus on straightforward construction and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, airports, etc.  Pelosi’s bill has no chance of floor action. 

Then the fledgling House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released in late June its nearly 550-page report on how to forestall the impact of climate change.  Entitled – I kid you not – “The Congressional Action Pan for a Clean Energy Economy & a Healthy, Resilient and Just America,” the report in many respects mimics Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D, NY) languishing Green New Deal – a plan Pelosi has outright marginalized and. some argue, rejected.  When it comes to agriculture, it’s painfully obvious those who provided input to such things are all about organic crop production and conservation, with a heavy dose of paying farmers to do those climate-friendly things they’re already doing, but for which they’re just not getting public or political credit.

The good news here is that as of now, it’s only a big old report, which if nothing else, justifies the time, effort and money spent by the committee.  Upon its release, three House Agriculture Committee subcommittee chairs said in a press statement the report is “encouraging,” and a “welcome addition to the climate discussion.”  They then went on to list all the things they and their respective subcommittees have already done when it comes to climate change. 

This kind of headline-grabbing, do-nothing activity from both sides of the aisle and both sides of Capitol Hill will continue right up until November 3.  Those who truly care about how Congress might attempt to mitigate issues like climate change and infrastructure investment because they’ll have make a living in that brave new world should take the time to come up with workable, real-world solutions because so far in this round, Congress is batting zero for two.

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