U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday pledged to include a Civilian Climate Corps in a $ 3.5 trillion infrastructure bill later this year, as a wide range of Democrats gathered around a framework aimed at employing thousands of young people to do conservation work.
Schumer, (DN.Y.), appeared with a handful of Congressional Democrats, led by U.S. Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado and spanning the ideological spectrum from moderate Senator Chris Coons of Delaware to Liberal Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. .
They said they were united behind the idea of a young and expansive workforce to tackle climate issues.
The speakers were among more than 80 Democrats from both houses who signed a letter to Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), calling on Tuesday for the creation of a climate body and outlining the basic principles.
Several Democrats have introduced bills authorizing the Climate Corps this year, and an accompanying report The House Interior and Environment Appropriation Bill includes a provision requiring the Home and Agriculture Secretaries to describe what a climate body would do.
Schumer and the Democrats who signed the letter said the second infrastructure package this year, which should only be supported by Democrats and has gone through the budget reconciliation process that allows certain laws to be passed by the Senate by simple majority, would be the vehicle to authorize and finance a climate body.
“I have made tackling the climate crisis boldly and strongly the main focus of our infrastructure debate,” Schumer said at a morning press conference. “This is why I am using my power as the majority leader to ensure that the Civilian Climate Corps is included in the reconciliation plan and I will fight for the biggest and boldest CCC possible. “
The letter called for the program to pay its workers a living wage and provide skills training to pave the way for better paying jobs. The body would seek to build climate resilience projects, reduce carbon emissions, and do other conservation work.
Republicans shrug their shoulders
In a House natural resources subcommittee hearing on the climate body later Tuesday, Republicans largely avoided directly opposing the idea of a climate body, but said there had bigger issues to solve.
Rank Republican National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee Russ Fulcher of Idaho said Congress should focus on forest health, forest fire management and enforcement. work of the Great American Outdoors Act. This law was enacted last year and provides $ 2.7 billion per year for the management of federal lands.
“Instead of monitoring and ensuring that we are wisely managing billions of taxpayer dollars to repair iconic treasures in our national parks and other federal lands, today we are discussing how we can rush to spend billions more, ”Fulcher told hearing.
Supporters of the corps have yet to set a specific spending level.
Biden proposed $ 10 billion for the body in its infrastructure proposal. A Neguse invoice would authorize $ 9 billion to establish a corps, with billions more for other purposes.
The price and other details would be worked out during the budget reconciliation process, which Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said would take place in the fall.
Senior committee member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) Said a new federal program was premature as Congress has yet to find the right policy for forest and wildfire management.
The National Environmental Protection Act, a basic environmental law that is criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for its binding standards, should be revised to allow for more active forest management, he said. The suppression of fires and the proliferation of forests have contributed to the aggravation of forest fires.
If more workers are needed to achieve policy goals once they are properly set, Westerman said he would be willing to add more workers afterwards.
Wyden, (D-Ore.), Told the Democratic press conference that if a climate body existed today, workers could be dispatched to fire-prone areas in the West “and immediately begin work on prevention that would give these communities the chance to come out in front of these future hells which hit the rural west like a wrecking ball today.
During the hearing, Neguse, who chairs the subcommittee, pointed out that climate change has also created warmer and drier conditions which have contributed to more intense fires.
An updated CCC
The name of the program is believed to refer to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a well-known New Deal program that provided conservation jobs. Supporters said the New Deal model would be appropriate.
“Summary: It worked before,” Neguse said. “It can work again. And we have to do it.
Several supporters have said the climate body should depart from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s agenda in being available to people who are not white males.
“President Roosevelt’s CCC mobilized millions of people,” said Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). “But its doors were closed to millions of Americans, including people of color and women.”
Neguse, an Eritrean-American, said he had not lost sight of a person who looked like him could not have benefited from the original CCC.
The letter called for half of the climate body’s spending to be spent on environmental justice initiatives and for half of the body’s members to come from communities most affected by climate change.
Jacob Fischler helps cover Washington for the States Newsroom Network.