(Bloomberg) -- Top House Democrats on Tuesday will announce a new plan for addressing climate change, as congressional inaction threatens to undermine environmental pitches by presidential candidates on an issue that voters identify as a priority.
The effort by Democratic leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee comes amid growing concern that the party hasn’t delivered tangible progress -- or passed any major legislation -- in its seven months of House control.
Presidential candidates are competing to outdo each other with proposals for throttling heat-warming carbon dioxide emissions, seeking to exploit growing concern about the planet’s escalating temperature and rising seas. They also have criticized Donald Trump’s record on the issue, as polls show few voters approve of the way he is handling it.
Yet so far this year, the House has largely confined its actions to a series of hearings, a smattering of small legislative proposals and passage of a bill that would force the U.S. to remain in the Paris climate accord. Even Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal plan for rapidly decarbonizing the U.S. economy hasn’t seen floor action.
Booker, Harris Call for Commission on Black Men
Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris joined their Republican counterpart Marco Rubio in introducing legislation that creates a commission to address disparities black males face in education, criminal justice, health and other issues.
The Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys would be housed within the office of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and would produce an annual report. The 19 bipartisan commission members would serve without pay and the bill does not authorize any appropriations. Representative Frederica Wilson of Florida introduced a companion bill in the House.
Booker and Harris are both running for the Democratic presidential nomination. As the only two black candidates in the race, they have been trying to chip away at Vice President Joe Biden‘s sizable lead among African-American voters.
“We must speak truth that slavery and our country’s long history of institutional racism continue to cause great pain and inequality toward communities of color — particularly Black males,” Harris said in a statement. -- Emma Kinery
Harris Bill Targets Michigan Water Crisis
Senator Kamala Harris unveiled the Water Justice Act to allocate $250 billion to upgrade infrastructure and ensure access to clean water, particularly for minority communities.
Two Michigan representatives, Dan Kildee and Brenda Lawrence, will introduce a companion bill in the House. Kildee represents Flint, a majority black city where lead and other toxins have been found in the drinking water.
Harris, a California senator, is emphasizing water issues in poor communities such as Flint as she vies to cut into the broad support her presidential rival Joe Biden has with black voters. Democrats have made Michigan a central target after Hillary Clinton lost the traditionally blue state in the 2016 election. Twenty of the party’s presidential candidates will debate in Detroit next week, and Harris will travel to the city on Wednesday to speak at the NAACP Convention.
The bulk of the proposed investment in the bill will go toward replacing “toxic drinking water infrastructure” but it also funds programs to offset water costs in households in environmentally at-risk low-income communities and programs for ensuring a sustainable water supply through recycling and conservation programs.
“We must take seriously the existential threat represented by future water shortages and acknowledge that communities across the country—particularly communities of color—already lack access to safe and affordable water,” Harris said in a statement. -- Emma Kinery
Warren Says Trump Boosts Risk of Economic Shock
Elizabeth Warren said the economy is in a “precarious” and “fragile” position due to declining manufacturing in recent months as well as rising household and corporate debt.
In a medium.com post Monday, the Democratic presidential candidate and former Harvard law professor said the administration’s “reckless behavior is increasing the odds” of a shock that tips the economy into recession before the end of President Donald Trump’s term.
Warren says she correctly warned before the 2008 financial crisis that housing was in trouble before the 2008 recession. She says she’s seeing “serious warning signs in the economy again,” citing risks such as a breach of the debt ceiling in September and the trade war with China.
“A single shock could bring it all down,” she wrote. “Warning lights are flashing. Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high -- and growing.”
Warren offered four proposals to stem a crisis: Cut household debt by strengthening the minimum wage and unions; impose new rules to limit leverage corporate lending; invest in manufacturing; and limit “shocks” by devising a “coherent” trade strategy and abolishing the debt limit. -- Sahil Kapur
Buttigieg Unveils Social Security Proposal
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he wants to shore up Social Security by boosting the amount of annual wages subject to a payroll tax that funds the program.
Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democratic hopefuls have also said they would raise the tax that funds Social Security, but Buttigieg’s proposal takes a more moderate approach.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said he would raise the maximum annual earnings currently subject to the Social Security payroll tax to $250,000 from $132,900 to help extend the viability of the program. Workers and employees pay a combined 12.4% tax on their earnings -- 6.2% each -- up to a capped amount. That cap is raised annually under a formula linked to the average national wage, but rising income inequality has eroded the tax base.
“That would go a long way toward sustainability on the Social Security side,” Buttigieg said Saturday at an Iowa forum hosted by the AARP. Americans ages 65 and older are expected to comprise about 23% of the electorate in 2020 -- their largest share since at least 1970, according to The Pew Research Center.
Sanders in February proposed a boost in the income cap, but a larger one than what Buttigieg is endorsing. The Vermont senator introduced legislation that would continue to apply the 12.4% tax on earnings up to the current limit, but then also impose the levy on all income above $250,000. Three other Senate Democrats who are running for president co-sponsored his bill: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California. --Laura Litvan
Coming Up This Week:
Nine Democratic presidential candidates and a Republican challenger to President Donald Trump are scheduled to participate in a forum hosted by the NAACP in Detroit on Wednesday:
Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Bill Weld.
--With assistance from Laura Litvan, Sahil Kapur, Emma Kinery and Jennifer Epstein.
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