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Dem leader: Infrastructure bills must deal with climate change

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, talks on the phone at the Capitol building on Dec. 4. Schumer and other Democrats are saying they won’t support a new infrastructure bill unless it contains provisions meant to combat climate change. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, talks on the phone at the Capitol building on Dec. 4. Schumer and other Democrats are saying they won’t support a new infrastructure bill unless it contains provisions meant to combat climate change. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By KEVIN FREKING and MATTHEW DALY
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders in Congress demanded last week that any new legislation on roads, bridges and other infrastructure include policies meant to curb global warming, complicating prospects for a deal with President Donald Trump on a jobs-boosting bill that both parties have deemed a priority.

Schumer said on Friday in a letter to Trump that climate change will cause “untold human suffering and significant damage to the U.S. economy” if left unchecked. The New York Democrat called for permanent tax credits to boost production from wind and solar energy and to help residences and offices better conserve energy. He also called for  municipalities to get more loans of the sort that they could use on projects meant to limit damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The letter comes as liberal groups and lawmakers —including tRep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York— push to ensure that policies meant to combat climate change remain at the top of the Democrats’ legislative priorities. Ocasio-Cortez, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives are calling for a “Green New Deal” that would encourage the installation of solar panels and wind turbines and the manufacture of electric vehicles.

Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have singled out infrastructure as a priority that Republicans and Democrats could rally around next year, after Democrats assume control of the House. But Trump has pledged to undo his predecessor’s work to curb global warming, saying that it has prevented the economy from being as strong as it might otherwise be.

Trump also has rejected a central conclusion of a dire report that his own administration recently released last month on the economic costs of climate change. The report warned that natural disasters are worsening in the United States because of global warming and estimates that the resulting costs had approached $400 billion since 2015.

“I don’t believe it,” Trump said.

Lawmakers are already expected to struggle with the question of how to pay for an infrastructure bill, which is likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars even as federal budget deficits are expected to soar above $1 trillion this year. Using the infrastructure bill in response to environmental concerns is certain to add additional tensions to the mix.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is seeking to become speaker in January, has said she will most likely reinstate a special committee that had dealt with climate change, although the exact details of her plans are not yet known publicly. Pelosi established that committee when she became speaker in 2007, only to see it disbanded after Republicans had won back the House in 2010. Pelosi said Democrats will rebuild America with “with clean energy, smart technology and resilient infrastructure.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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