Biden argues critics of $3.5 trillion budget proposal are inviting climate ‘disaster’

By Josh Marcus
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

During a visit to California, Joe Biden took a not-so-subtle shot at critics of congressional Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion budget – including those within the party – telling them from a hangar in the wildfire-ravaged state that investing less was a “prescription for disaster”.

“We have to think big,” Mr Biden said. “Thinking small is a prescription for disaster.”

The president traveled through the West on Monday, visiting the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, then heading out to California, where the most destructive blaze in the state’s history, the Dixie Fire, continues to burn. Recent disasters like fires in the West, and the destructive Hurricane Ida, underscore the need for massive investments to stop the climate crisis, Mr Biden argued.

“We can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change,” he said. “It isn’t about red or blue states. It’s about fires, just fires.”

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, as well as the broader Democrat budget reconciliation proposal, contain billions of dollars in climate-related investment, including a recently announced $150 billion plan to get utilities to invest more in clean power.

The budget proposal has no support from Republicans, and some moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have balked at the price. The Democrats need all 50 of their senators to pass the reconciliation package in the evenly divided upper chamber.

“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” Mr Manchin wrote in a September op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr Biden defended the scope of the party’s proposals during his remarks on Monday, noting that extreme weather alone cost America nearly $100 billion last year, as well as highlighting how dollars invested in climate resilience pay for themselves in savings later on.

To pay for the ambitious spending package, Democrats announced on Monday that they hoped to undo many of the Trump administration’s tax cuts on the wealthy.

Proposed changes include raising the top corporate tax rate to 26.5 per cent from the current 21 per cent, and restoring the top individual tax rate to 39.6 per cent for those earning more than $400,000.

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