Biden Considers Declaring a National Emergency

Biden Considers Declaring a National Emergency

President Joe Biden
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Good Tuesday evening, and we hope you’re keeping cool. As record-breaking heat smothered much of the country, the National Weather Service said this morning that more than 100 million people in the U.S. were under heat advisories or warnings.

Here’s the latest.

Biden Considers Declaring National Emergency on Climate: Reports

President Joe Biden and his advisers have reportedly been debating whether he should declare climate change a national emergency.

Biden is set to travel Wednesday to Somerset, Massachusetts, the site of a shuttered coal-fired power plant that is now being transformed into an offshore wind facility. Biden will speak about climate change and clean energy, but he will reportedly stop short of declaring a climate emergency.

What a national emergency would do: An emergency declaration “would allow Biden to redirect spending to accelerate renewable energy such as wind and solar power and speed the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels,” Seung Min Kim, Chris Megerian and Matthew Daly of the Associated Press explain. “The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.”

Bloomberg’s Ari Natter and Jennifer A Dlouhy add that an emergency declaration “would let Biden take advantage of a law typically used after major hurricanes and other natural disasters -- the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act -- to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to construct renewable energy projects using federal money.” They note that FEMA has $19 billion to address ongoing disasters in its fiscal year 2022 budget, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group advocating for the emergency declaration. The group also says that Biden can use the Defense Production Act and the federal procurement budget of $650 billion a year to manufacture renewable energy and promote clean transportation technologies.

The bottom line: Again, an emergency declaration reportedly won’t happen Wednesday, but Biden will continue to face pressure to act on climate change — as will Congress.

Senate Adds $13 Billion to Defense Bill to Cover the Cost of Inflation

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Monday filed its version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which would provide $847 billion for defense in the coming fiscal year. A separate bill would authorize an additional $11 billion for national defense activities at various federal agencies, bringing the Senate’s defense funding total to nearly $858 billion — several billion more than the $851 billion the House has proposed to authorize.

The Senate bill provides about $45 billion more for defense than was requested by the White House, with some of the money dedicated to offsetting the cost of inflation. According to data released this week, the cost of that inflation offset in the Senate bill would be $13 billion.

The Senate NDAA filing includes funding tables that break down the “inflation effects” for each branch of the military. The Navy and Marines would receive $2 billion to cover the erosion of their funding due to inflation, for example, while the Air Force would receive an extra $1 billion, Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly reports.

“With the Chinese Communist Party accelerating the already historic modernization of its military, Russia continuing to destabilize security in Europe, and record-high inflation jeopardizing our buying power, Congress must do everything we can to give our military every advantage on the battlefield,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), the top Republican on the committee, said in a statement. “To start, that means adequate investment — which is why Chairman Reed and I led the charge to increase the defense budget by $45 billion, to make sure our troops have the tools, capabilities, training, pay and resources needed to defend this country,” he added, referring to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the committee chair.

The bill has been named for Inhofe, who is retiring.

More F-35s coming: Separately, the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin announced that they have a “handshake agreement” on the purchase of the next block of F-35 stealth jets, in an order totaling 375 aircraft, at a cost of roughly $30 billion.

The per unit cost has yet to be determined. The first F-35A — the most common variant, which takes off from regular airfields — cost $211 million, but the unit cost has fallen to $79 million in the most recent order as production volumes picked up. After a year of high inflation throughout the economy, however, that downward price trend could be in jeopardy.

“I think it’s likely that we’ll see costs rise on a tail by tail basis,” Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, who manages the F-35 program at the Pentagon, said earlier this year.

Several Appropriations Bills Face Hurdles in the House

The House is racing to pass 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2023, with lawmakers aiming to complete their work before leaving town for their summer recess on July 29. But political divisions within the Democratic caucus are slowing that effort, leaving some analysts to doubt that all of the bills can pass before the break.

The House started consideration Tuesday on a package of six bills that have a good chance of passing quickly. The $405 billion package is led by the Transportation-HUD bill, and include the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Financial Services, Interior-Environment and Military Construction-VA bills.

Lawmakers have been unable to agree on other key issues, however, including defense appropriations, border security policies and funding for police, jeopardizing the Defense, Homeland Security and Commerce-Justice-Science bills. The Labor-HHS-Education bill is also in trouble, Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak and Aidan Quigley report, due to disagreements over the status of Title 42, the public health act invoked by former President Donald Trump to deport immigrants due to the pandemic.

Still, some lawmakers are saying they will get the job done in time. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) says it’s her goal to finish all 12 bills before the break, and David Price (D-NC), chair of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, expressed confidence they would succeed. “We should be able to do all 12,” he told Roll Call.

Senate is stuck: The job of lawmakers in the House has been complicated by the fact that the Senate is far behind in the appropriations process, with no bills making it even through the committee process. “[W]ithout knowing even the starting point for where the Senate wants to go on funding levels and policy riders, it’s harder for rank-and-file House lawmakers to get invested in putting their stamp on the process,” Krawzak and Quigley write.

“We need the Senate to start being realistic about what’s happening here and start showing their numbers, their bills and everything else,” said Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Chart of the Day: How Cities Are Spending Their Covid Aid Money

Axios’s Jennifer A. Kingson reports that cities and counties are budgeting the billions of dollars in Covid aid money they got from the federal government for a wide range of uses — but “the funds are largely being pledged to unsexy-but-vital projects, like general revenue replenishment, broadband initiatives, wastewater systems and unemployment insurance.”

Based on a Brookings Institution analysis published earlier this month, which uses data provided by local governments to the Treasury Department, here’s the Axios breakdown of how the pandemic aid is being spent.



Views and Analysis