Melissa Harris-Perry: President Biden is traveling through Europe this weekend meeting with world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Rome and the UN's Climate Summit. The President was hoping this trip would be a bit of a global victory lap, and he'd be able to point to more than half a trillion dollars set aside for addressing climate change in the Democrats' reconciliation package.
With negotiations still ongoing among Congressional Democrats, President Biden has had to slow his roll a bit as the global community is probably going to be a bit more skeptical that the US is indeed a global leader on the issue of climate change.
For more, I'm joined now by Anthony Adragna, Congressional reporter for POLITICO and author of the Congress Minutes, POLITICO's guide to what's happening on Capitol Hill. Thanks for being here, Anthony.
Anthony Adragna: Pleasure to be with you.
Melissa Harris-Perry: President Biden had to delay the start of his trip to Europe because of negotiations over the reconciliation package. Do you think he was expecting Democrats to maybe move a bit more swiftly with this plan?
Anthony Adragna: He may have been, but I think progressives have been really crystal clear so nobody really should have been surprised by the outcome earlier this week. What happened is he came to the Capitol, made his pitch, tried to get people on board to vote for this bipartisan infrastructure bill, saying, look, we got a framework here for this big bill $1.75 trillion, huge investment.
Progressives have said for weeks, if not months, that they want to see the legislative text. They held to their guns. I think the outcome was not terribly surprising, given what progressives have been saying.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What does this tell you about President Biden's ability to manage this party and to move forward on what he as an executive is going to have one legacy that is critical to him. These members of the House and Senate face re-election on a different schedule than the President does.
Anthony Adragna: Totally fair question. I think people tend to minimize the challenge that President Biden has here. His caucus ranges from progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, to a Democrat, Joe Manchin, that represents a state that former President Trump won by 40 points. The ideological differences in this caucus are vast, and he's got a huge challenge in trying to manage everybody.
The fact that we're even at a point where we're talking about a $1.75 trillion bill is pretty remarkable. It's certainly been messy. Democrats have certainly set themselves a bunch of deadlines that they've blown through. The fact they're even at the precipice of being able to do something like this, to me is really quite stunning.
Melissa Harris-Perry: If you watch reporting these days, it's about what's out. Of course, none of it was ever in initially in the sense that it wasn't a matter of law initially. I wonder if there is just a strategic aspect here starting with something that was so big and had lots and lots of different connected interest groups and nonprofit organizations and all of those things. Everybody obviously wants to keep as much of their piece in this pie as possible.
Anthony Adragna: That's exactly right. I think part of the challenge for Democrats is they're really looking at this bill to do a decade plus worth of priorities all at once. That's really challenging. Part of the frustration is, I think, to galvanize progressives, get them on board. Democrats talked about a top-line number $3.5 trillion worth of spending. Then they have been wagging their fingers at the media and saying "You always talk about the top line."
That's what they've been leaning on throughout this process to try to get progressives excited about this bill. You're right, everything is interconnected. These are all crucial priorities for the Democrats. When you have to pick and choose amongst them, that's going to lead inevitably to people being unhappy.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Clearly, the climate is at the core for so many within the Democratic Party. How are progressives feeling right now about the climate measures that are actually pretty likely to remain in the final version of the reconciliation package?
Anthony Adragna: I think I'd say cautiously optimistic. I think what's been remarkable throughout this whole process is somebody who's covered climate change for the better part of a decade is compared to a decade ago. The party has been remarkably united about climate change throughout this entire process, with the notable and important exception of Senator Joe Manchin.
However, at the end of the day, what it looks like is they're poised to invest about a third of this overall bill in climate change measures, even the more centrist members in the House. Centrist members like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who's been a holdout on a lot of other pieces of this, have all been really excited about climate change. We're talking about $555 billion of climate investments.
We're still hammering out the final details here. The details obviously matter, but you're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, at least a five times greater investment in climate change measures than the US Congress has ever done before. I think that's why progressives are feeling cautiously optimistic about how this package is shaping up.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Do you have a sense of what shifted that has led to the Democratic Party being more of a consensus issue?
Anthony Adragna: The problem has gotten worse. It's harder to deny when you have wildfires out west, severe drought. At the same time, you're seeing flooding in the East Coast, hurricanes devastating the Gulf Coast. I think the science has gotten only clear. We heard over the summer from the UN that this is a code red moment for humanity and for climate change.
People throughout the ideological spectrum are seeing that voters care more about this issue, and that we can't afford to delay action anymore. I think that's what's galvanizing the party to make these kinds of really fast investments and addressing the problem.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Clearly, President Biden will be doing what presidents typically love to do, which is spending the weekend in the international space. This is one of the few places where presidents don't have to do quite so much negotiating within their own party. They're able to really represent their nation. I'm wondering how President Biden is feeling relative to, or what your sense is about how he's viewed in this moment, and how the US is viewed in this moment, particularly around climate issues?
Anthony Adragna: It's a great question. I think the trust issue with the US is going to remain and linger. I think the case that the US officials hope to make when President Biden arrives in Scotland for this conference is, look, the legislating process is messy. You all get that. You all have your own internal legislative struggles in your countries, but we're on the precipice of making the biggest investment in climate change in history. Certainly, far greater than we've ever done before.
It may be a little bit messy. There may be a few more hiccups along the way, but we're going to do it. The writings on the wall is a couple of senators described it to me this week. That's the case that I think President Biden's going to make. Look, we're not there quite yet, but we're going to be there. Count on the US delivering on these climate investments that we've promised, and you all should up your climate commitments as a result of that.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Anthony Dragna is a Congressional reporter for POLITICO. Thanks so much for joining The Takeaway, Anthony.
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