Democrats win control of US Senate, boosting prospect of climate action



Jan 7, 2021


The Democratic party has won control of the US Senate, reports Climate Home News, “removing a huge potential roadblock to president-elect Joe Biden’s green investment plans”. With the Democrats winning the two run-off elections to become senators for the state of Georgia, both parties will have 50 senators each, the outlet explains, meaning Democratic vice-president Kamala Harris will have the casting vote on any tied votes. The newly elected senators “support Biden’s green spending plans, re-joining the Paris Agreement and reversing Trump’s cuts to environmental protections”, the outlet notes. It adds: “There are now enough Democratic senators to pass tax and spending bills, although they fall short of the 60 seats to filibuster-proof broader legislation.” For example, “the Senate also has power over the budgets of agencies like the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and could reverse funding cuts under Democratic control”. The new balance of power would “also make it easier for Mr Biden’s cabinet appointees to win confirmation”, explains the New York Times, “as well as for Democrats to increase the budgets of federal agencies and pump money into clean energy research and development”. The paper adds: “It also would greatly increase the likelihood that Congress would incorporate portions of Mr Biden’s $2tn climate plan into new economic stimulus legislation as well as an infrastructure package.” However, the paper notes, the tight margin in the Senate means “Democrats would still be forced to compromise with Republicans and would be limited in their ability to pass sweeping new laws”.


Axios also has a first look at the energy policy implications of a Democrat majority in the Senate. A Los Angeles Times editorial notes that Biden’s preference is to compromise “in any case”, adding: “Assuming Republicans are willing to reciprocate, there is potential common ground on priorities including additional stimulus, counteracting the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, immigration and efforts to deal with climate change.” A Wall Street Journal editorial blames the run-off losses on President Trump’s “post-election tantrums”. It concludes: “We hope Republicans keep Mr Trump’s contribution to these defeats in mind over the next two years as their taxes and energy costs rise.”


In related news, E&E News reports that Biden’s transition team says the Trump administration has done more damage than anticipated to the government’s ability to address climate change. It continues: “Potentially lowering expectations for the incoming president’s early climate efforts, Biden officials say their agency review teams have found deeper budget cuts, wider staff losses and more systematic elimination of climate programs and research than they realised.” The New York Times reports that an “early Biden climate test” is already emerging. Yesterday, “two influential organisations that advocate for stronger measures to withstand natural disasters…filed a petition with the federal government urging more stringent building standards for homes and infrastructure along rivers and coasts”, the paper says. It explains:


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