Senate Republicans Need to Define What They’re For

President Biden’s scaled back Build Back Better agenda—not so accurately rebranded as the “Inflation Reduction Act”—is set to arrive on the Senate floor as Republicans may be losing momentum across the country. Senate candidates continue to struggle in states like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; and key House races, such as Michigan’s 3rd District, where John Gibbs defeated Peter Meijer, are shifting toward Democrats. Come November, it may become clear that election denial has consequences. Meanwhile, as Chris Stirewalt argues, the surge of low-propensity voters who turned out in Kansas to vote on abortion hints at trouble for Republicans. 

In a weekend session at the end of a bad week, it will be tempting for Republicans to ridicule the tax-and-spend progressive excess in the bill but let Biden have his win and call it a day. Instead, Senate Republicans should use the rules of budget reconciliation, which allow for unlimited amendments, to offer a smart and aggressive amendment strategy. This debate is an important opportunity for Republicans to define not just what they are against, but what they are for when it comes to energy and climate policy. 

Senate Democrats are using the playbook they use on every issue—give Republicans a bill they’d never vote for (i.e., one that raises taxes, beefs up the IRS, and expands Obamacare) and demagogue them for not “caring” about climate change. Republicans should turn the tables. Just as the DCCC recently showed that some Democrats are more interested in protecting Democrats than democracy when they backed election conspiracy theorists in midterm primaries, some Democrats are also more interested in protecting their positions than the planet. 

Senate Republicans should start by stripping out the tax increases that would slow the innovation that’s required to develop clean energy and ask how spending $80 billion on IRS enforcement and $64 billion on Obamacare subsidies will lower greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of offering a blanket “no” on the climate provision, Republicans should highlight what they’d consider supporting and then force Democrats to say “no” to spending offsets rather than tax increases as a means of financing those investments. 

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