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What Tom Vilsack as Biden's agriculture secretary means for energy and climate

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as his agriculture secretary, giving him a role in Biden's climate agenda if confirmed to the job he also held under Barack Obama.

Why it matters: The Agriculture Department is relevant here for several reasons, including that Biden's platform calls for investing in practices that increase CO2 storage in soil and removing "regulatory roadblocks."


  • There's oil-and-gas projects and leasing on Forest Service properties, which means he would be part of Biden's (still vague) vow to ban new permitting on federal lands.
  • The department also traditionally collaborates with EPA on decisions about biofuels policy.

What we're watching: Politico reports that the chance to work on Biden's climate agenda "likely made the job more attractive for Vilsack to return."

  • Farm industry groups, after long resisting climate efforts, are becoming more interested in policies that incentivize soil carbon storage, per Politico.
  • "An idea recently gaining traction is to expand the USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. borrowing authority to create a carbon bank to help pay farmers and other landowners for carbon sequestration," their piece states.

By the numbers: "The agriculture sector accounts for about 10% of current overall U.S. emissions, while U.S forests sequester the equivalent of about 15% of carbon dioxide emissions from combustion of U.S. fossil fuels annually," according to the Climate 21 Project.

  • The group, which includes several Obama alums, is offering proposals for how a whole bunch of agencies can help address global warming.
  • Their USDA memo is here.

Yes, but: Vilsack's support for corn ethanol and his agribusiness background — he's led the U.S. Dairy Export Council since early 2017will likely rankle the left flank of the green movement.

  • Last night, Friends of the Earth said they were "deeply disappointed" with the choice.
  • "In order to implement Biden’s climate and racial justice agenda, Vilsack must be willing to transform the USDA to support a more diversified, regenerative, healthy and just food system," they said.

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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

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The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.

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Why it matters: New taxes would be a necessary part of any Democratic plan to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. But President Biden has more urgent priorities — and Warren's wealth tax in particular faces constitutional obstacles that make it a hard sell.

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House passes For the People Act to expand voting rights

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

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House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

The House voted 220-212onWednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

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Republicans are demanding a full 600-page reading of Biden’s COVID relief bill

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Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

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