Reviewing Primary and Supporting Asks

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Read below for updates and context for CCL's 2021 Primary and Supporting Asks as well as guidance for lobby teams as they plan their online meetings.  This month, CCL volunteers across the country are gearing up for our annual November conference and lobbying push. For years, we’ve been meeting with congressional offices to educate them about carbon pricing and ask for their support. This year, we’re pushing that message even harder, backed by momentum from the international community, American businesses, and from within Congress itself. 

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November 2021’s Primary & Supporting Asks
Primary Asks Resource (one-page handouts) organized based on the political party and the congressional chamber you’re meeting with (e.g. Senate Republican, House Democrat, and so on). 
  • For Democrats: Most offices are only thinking about the budget reconciliation process. As a result, it doesn’t make sense to talk about stand alone bills outside of this process.  Although we have been talking about a carbon price for over a decade, we haven’t been talking about in the context of reconciliation. The thought that a carbon price might be a part of reconciliation is still relatively new to many members of Congress. There is still a need to socialize this message, and let them know that their constituents support this. This is particularly important for both moderate and progressive Democrats. 
    • Emphasize that this is an important way to meet Biden’s 50% by 2030 pledge, and stay within the lower price tag demanded by Senator Manchin. Brings us in line with the best available science as well as what other countries are already pursuing policy-wise.
    • For those of you with members who are already supportive of including a carbon price in reconciliation, instead of only providing them the Supporting Asks one pager(s), consider asking “what can we do?"
  • For Republicans: Don't talk about reconciliation. This avenue will present a lane that will make it easy for them to shut down the conversation. If you want to have a productive discussion, please don’t talk about reconciliation. Instead, use one of CCL's Supporting Asks (resource page) for your primary ask this November:
    • In the House: Emphasize support for the Growing Climate Solutions Act. (H.R.2820)
      • (House ask only; already passed the Senate)
      • Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act (S.2950 / H.R.5508)
        • (House and Senate ask)
    • In the Senate: Your team can pick from the list of recently updated CCL Supporting Asks
      • Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems (RISEE) Act (S.2130)
        • (Senate ask)
      • Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act (S.2950 / H.R.5508)
        • (House and Senate ask)
    • This approach moves things in our preferred direction because we are thinking long term. At some point ahead, Republicans will retake one or the other chamber and we will face a divided government. At that time, we will still need to move the needle on climate. Getting bipartisan wins with Republicans on these supporting asks bills now makes that easier for us. We have the opportunity of getting them in the habit of saying yes to us, and for those that do say yes, we get to show them how good it feels to act on climate. That will lead to one more year that these offices have good experiences being pro-climate action, one more year they’re developing and refining their talking points, and in turn this will lead to many statements they aren’t going to want to walk back once we’re back to divided government. That’s called momentum. That’s what we’re building with these as our primary asks. 
Background on the Reconciliation Process
  • What is Budget Reconciliation?
    • Budget reconciliation is a process that allows specific budget-related legislation to bypass the filibuster so it can pass with just 51 votes in the Senate.
  • How often can it be used?
    • Congress generally has one chance to use reconciliation per fiscal year (Oct 1 - Sep 30). In March of 2021 Congress used reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan as part of the 2021 fiscal year, which ends in September of 2021. In the fall of 2021 they could use reconciliation again to pass a budget resolution for the 2022 fiscal year.
  • What can be included in a budget reconciliation bill?
    • There are Senate procedural rules, called the Byrd Rule after Senator Byrd, about what can be included in a reconciliation bill. The Byrd Rule excludes “extraneous items” from reconciliation meaning anything that does not produce a change in outlays or revenue, or where outlays and revenues are merely incidental to the budget process. It also excludes changes to social security, and anything that would increase the deficit beyond 10 years.
Timeline of major recent Congressional events
  • August 10th: Senate passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill after 2 months of negotiations. It was the last bipartisan thing Congress did before Democrats entered fully into the reconciliation process
  • August 9th memo from Senate Majority Leader Schumer to the Senate committees shows even with the CEPP included we are not on track to reach President Biden's goal of 50% reductions by 2030: 
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  • August 9th: Date of Budget Resolution passage - Sens. Manchin/Schumer private agreement to limit total to $1.5 trillion and begin debate no later than October 1st 
  • August 11th: Date of Budget resolution introduction providing non-specific instructions to the Energy and Natural Resources and Finance Committees.
  • August 23rd: House Speaker Pelosi reached a deal between House Moderates and Progressives to vote on joint BIF (Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework) and the separate reconciliation package.
  • Sept. 3rd: Leak from the Finance Committee reveals they are working on carbon fees as a provision in the overall package.
  • Additionally, Congress dealt with a debt ceiling crisis and then Sen. Manchin publicly came out against the CEPP.
  • Given there was a realistic chance of getting a carbon price as part of reconciliation, CCL decided to engage in the reconciliation process even though it’s not our ideal vehicle because since there is a chance. As an organization, we wanted to exert influence to make it as close as possible to our vision
  • Bringing us to the present day:
    • On Nov. 5th the House passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIB) with 13 Republicans voting with all but 6 Democrats.  The bill includes some climate provisions that we should celebrate, but they are not on the scale needed to address the issue without further legislation. This bill passed in the Senate months ago with 69 votes and is now on the way to the President’s desk to become law. 
    • This should free up Congress to focus fully on the budget reconciliation process. The House did not yet pass it’s version, as moderates are now holding that up waiting for a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. The CBO score will give an estimate of the impact on the federal budget and can take weeks to compile. People are projecting a House vote by November 15th and moderates have promised to vote for it, but there may be issues depending on what the CBO score says. 
    • Remember that once the House votes on the budget it will go to the Senate where they are likely to make significant changes. So, we should not get too caught up in the details on this version from the House.
    • In the Senate, negotiations continue on reconciliation and Sen. Joe Manchin expressed hopes they can wrap up negotiations by Thanksgiving. Even if they do so, it will then take a few weeks to turn an agreement into bill text and then vote on it. After a Senate vote the bill would go back to the House for a final vote before going to the president.
    • The press also reported that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says 49 Senators, the House, and the White House are all on board with a carbon fee in the budget. He also said the intention is to send rebates to households. 
  • It is a good time to pause here and be clear that we would not be seeing this level of support in Congress without all the work of CCLers both in the last few weeks and months, and over the last decade of advocacy. You all are amazing!
    • Now of course we know that 49 votes in the Senate is not enough to pass a bill and that Sen. Joe Manchin is that 50th vote. Sen. Whitehouse is active in the negotiations with Sen. Manchin and it’s clear that a carbon price is still on the table and they are working to find a version that would work for Sen. Manchin.
Connecting with Congress in this Moment
In general, this moment in Congress features a very confusing, fast-moving process. It's very leadership-driven, so many members and staff feel in the dark as well and don’t like that. 
  • House Democrat Realities: They are going to be under enormous pressure to approve whatever comes out of the Senate. What we can accomplish is to diffuse any opposition on the basis of the carbon fee. 
  • House Republican Realities: The Conservative Climate Caucus raced up to 68 members in its first few weeks of existence. The chair, Rep. John Curtis, is off to Glasgow tonight and is saying “We also want to show we have good ideas. We want a seat at that climate table. That’s been the mistake with Republicans not talking about this...our ideas are not being considered.” We want to push the envelope, get them to go further than they otherwise would have. The great news: they are moving in the right direction. It is no longer our job to turn them around, it's to speed them up. 
  • Senate Democrat Realities: They have a framework, racing to get details hammered out before Dec. 3 and get it out to the House. Working very hard with exhausted staff. 
  • Senate Republican Realities: Generally frustrated at being left out. The Senate Climate Solutions Caucus has many of same dynamics as House's Conservative Climate Caucus, but is a bit further in that they are working with Senate Democrats. The Senate Climate Solutions Caucus has continued to meet at a member level once a month, but we haven’t been hearing about it. Last publicized event was March, last news item was the Senate passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act in June.
Length
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Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Current State of Play
(3:38)

Primary Asks
(7:45)

Supporting Asks
(10:00)

Connecting with Congress
(23:00)

Q&A Discussion
(separate link: https://vimeo.com/642770688)
Instructor(s)
  • Dr. Danny Richter
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Audio length
Press play to start the audio (35m 19s)
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Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Current State of Play
(3:38)

Primary Asks
(7:45)

Supporting Asks
(10:00)

Connecting with Congress
(23:00)

Q&A Discussion
(separate link: https://vimeo.com/642770688)
Instructor(s)
  • Dr. Danny Richter
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Training Resources

To prepare yourself, research the full suite of resources for planning a meeting with a member of Congress.