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Poll finds support for immediate climate action as GOP pushes clean energy rollback

House Republicans are threatening a catastrophic debt default if they don’t get to make major cuts to historic climate change investments.

By Josh Israel - April 21, 2023
Kevin McCarthy
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters after passing the GOP's sprawling energy package that would counter virtually all of President Joe Biden's agenda to address climate change, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 30, 2023. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would sharply increase domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal, and ease permitting restrictions that delay pipelines, refineries and other projects.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Republicans released a plan on Wednesday that would tie a federal debt limit increase to $4.5 trillion in spending cuts and a repeal of major parts of the Inflation Reduction Act. The plan would cut hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for measures to deal with climate change, even though recent polling shows most Americans want the government to take immediate action to address the environmental crisis.

A federal law prohibits the government from borrowing more than $31.381 trillion, and the national debt currently stands at $31.6 trillion due to spending plans passed by Congress under the leadership of both Democrats and Republicans over several decades.

If Congress does not vote to increase the borrowing limit in the next few weeks, the Treasury Department will be unable to pay the interest on its current debts, causing what experts say would be a catastrophic default. Economist Paul Van de Water told the American Independent Foundation in February that a default would shock the economy and trigger a recession.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has refused to pass a bill to suspend or raise the debt ceiling without including Republican priorities, including the cancellation of all unspent Inflation Reduction Act and COVID-19 pandemic relief funding, blocking student loan relief, eliminating clean energy tax credits, and making it harder for poorer families to receive government assistance. The bill, dubbed the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 and introduced by Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas, incorporates a Republican-backed bill to expand oil and gas drilling, roll back environmental protections, and boost mining.

“We owe it to the American people to use this moment in history to deliver the future they want, need, and deserve,” McCarthy said in a floor speech. “I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this plan to get our nation back on track.”

A new CBS News/YouGov poll conducted April 14-18 suggests that the American public does not support a rollback of clean energy and climate change infrastructure investments. The survey of adults found 53% want climate change to be addressed right now and 14% want it addressed over the next few years, while 9% say it should be done “further in the future” and 24% say it shouldn’t be done at all.

The Biden administration strongly opposes McCarthy’s plan, demanding a bill to increase the debt limit without strings attached.

In a memo shared with USA Today, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said of the bill, “‘Let me kill over 100,000 manufacturing jobs – mostly in red states – or I’ll force America to default on bills we racked up and trigger a recession,’ is the opposite of a compelling message.” USA Today reported that the memo included a list of Republican lawmakers in Congress whose districts are benefitting from investments in green technology.

In March, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report warning that if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately curbed, the consequences for humanity will be dire. The panel is an international group of scientists charged with assessing climate change and its impacts.

“Humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast,” warned U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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