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Democrats tie climate to racial justice and inequality agenda

The Senate's top Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is throwing his weight behind an economic message that ties climate to goals around racial justice, income inequality, labor rights and a lot more.

Why it matters: The broad resolution — which includes calls for investments in low-carbon energy and infrastructure — previews Democrats' political posture if they regain the majority and have a chance to legislate.


Driving the news: Schumer is co-sponsoring the new resolution that's a call to "Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy," or THRIVE.

  • Schumer, at the resolution's rollout event, said the U.S. is experiencing a "collision of crises" — the pandemic, the economic crisis, climate change and racial injustices.
  • "We can't play whack-a-mole with these crises, we can't pick one alone to focus on," Schumer said.
  • The bicameral plan has over 80 co-sponsors, and backers include the Sierra Club, the Movement for Black Lives, and the Service Employees International Union.

Between the lines: Like the Green New Deal, the new House and Senate resolution is a big and vague thing that tells us little about policy specifics, but plenty about the politics of the moment.

  • It reflects the increasing efforts among progressives to link climate and environmental policy to battling systemic racism and inequalities — including the disproportionate pollution burdens facing people of color.
  • There's plenty there for organized labor too. One section endorses the union-backed "Protecting the Right to Organize Act" and other steps to expand labor power.
  • But, it remains to be seen how much this very intersectional framing of their climate message might affect chances of moving big policies if a political window opens, and how it might translate into more detailed legislation.

Quick take: It's the latest example that Democrats understand big new steps on climate would probably need to hitch a ride with other priorities.

  • As we wrote here, Joe Biden has tethered his proposal for $2 trillion in climate-related investments to his wider economic recovery plan.
  • Or go back a decade, when Democrats frequently argued that the big climate bill they tried to move through Congress would help ease dependence on oil imports.

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