Already under fire from progressive activists and lawmakers for holding up congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden's agenda, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema drew additional ire Friday with reporting that she's proposed cutting $100 billion in climate provisions from the reconciliation package.
"Maybe if she actually took the time to speak to the people of her state, she'd realize how much their families need her to deliver action on climate."
The New York Times reported the proposed cuts, citing a pair of unnamed sources and acknowledging that Sinema (D-Ariz.), who started her political career with the Green Party, represents "one of the nation's hottest and driest states."
In response to the reporting, Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, similarly pointed out that "Sinema represents a state that has lost the lives of over 500 people to the climate crisis since 2020 alone."
"It is cruel and unfathomable that she's demanding severe cuts to lifesaving climate legislation, but not surprising since she's been meeting nonstop with corporate executives," she said. "Sinema is out of touch with her constituents and with what's happening across the globe on climate. Maybe if she actually took the time to speak to the people of her state, she'd realize how much their families need her to deliver action on climate."
"Biden cannot cave to this level of delusion," the Sunrise leader added, calling on the president to ensure the entire $3.5 trillion package is passed by the time he arrives in Scotland for a United Nations climate summit known as COP 26 at the end of the month.
"This is a matter of Joe Biden's legacy, human life and the future of our generation," Prakash said.
A spokesperson for Sinema, John LaBombard, continued the senator's trend of not publicly discussing her demands. LaBombard told the Times that "given the size and scope of the budget reconciliation proposal—and the lack of detailed legislative language, or even consensus between the Senate and House around several provisions—we are not offering detailed comments on any one proposed piece of the package while those discussions are ongoing."
Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are the only members of the Senate Democratic Caucus who don't support a $3.5 trillion price tag for the Build Back Better bill, which Democrats are trying to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to pass.
Democrats are expected to protect a proposed $150 billion clean electricity program as well as about $300 billion in tax incentives for wind and solar power and electric vehicles, the Times noted. However, they may slash or scale back up to another $200 billion in other climate programs as part of an effort to win over Sinema and Manchin by reducing the package by $1.5 trillion.
According to the newspaper:
Those could include a number of programs designed to help poor people adapt to the destructive impacts of climate change, as well as $30 billion for a "Green Bank" to help communities finance construction of solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations, and $30 billion to create a "Civilian Climate Corps" that would hire young adults to work in climate mitigation and adaptation, with half coming from communities of color.
Another possible contender for the chopping block could be a $10 billion program to help rural electric cooperatives, which supply electricity to over 40 million people in rural communities. The money would aim to ease the price spikes that those rural residents could see in their power bills as the cooperatives make the switch from buying coal-fired power to wind and solar. Other potential cuts could include a $13 billion program to build new electric vehicle charging stations—including $1 billion to ensure that those stations are built in lower-income areas.
The revelation came a day after a few Senate Democrats as well as members of the Sunrise Movement and other advocacy groups gathered outside the U.S. Capitol to remind negotiators "No Climate, No Deal," and call for passing the reconciliation package before the U.N. summit.