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The view from Washington

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By Joel B. Stronberg

· 4 min read

The drama in Washington is all about the looming end of the federal fiscal year. All eyes are focused on House Speaker McCarthy and whether he can deliver enough votes to keep the government open come October 1st. The short-term target of Congress and the White House is the passage of a continuing resolution to give them more time to come up with a longer-term solution—which is likely to be another continuing resolution. Congress has not been good at passing the 12 separate appropriations bills for the past quarter century.

McCarthy has a tough row ahead of him. The far-right members of the Republican conference are digging their heels in wanting to add to any short-term resolution several of their legislative priorities, including immigration policy, no further aid for Ukraine, and reduced budgets for defense.

Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has threatened McCarthy with a motion to vacate the chair. Passage of the motion would remove the speaker. Gaetz was one of the last to vote for McCarthy and like others in the House Freedom Caucus believe he made promises he’s now not keeping. To his credit, the speaker told him to bring it on.

The track record of the House Freedom Caucus is pretty impressive when it comes to bucking moderate leadership. These populists quite literally chased former speakers Boehner (R-OH) and Ryan (R-WI) out of Congress. They too had trouble with far-righters and became frustrated by the inability to get much done. Why McCarthy might think he can do what his predecessors couldn’t is something of a mystery.

The House couldn’t agree on anything and so they all left town. There are now only four legislative days left before the new fiscal year. It was a horrible week for the speaker. The far-right prevented the defense bill from coming to the House floor for a vote. It’s nearly unheard of for a procedural motion like that to be defeated.

Former President Trump chimed in as well. He posted a message to House Republicans on his Truth Social site: "Republicans in Congress can and must defund all aspects of Crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized Government.” Whatever other reasons the ex-president has for wanting a government shutdown, his primary one is the belief that it will stop federal trials. The trials will go on regardless. The last shutdown occurred when Trump was president. It was 35 days long—the longest in US history.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has initiated a procedure by which the Senate will vote on a continuing resolution that would keep the government in business for another 30 days. It’s a lean resolution. It just keeps things moving at the current rate. However, it doesn’t include disaster relief funds. The hurricane season isn’t over by a long shot. The absence of funds could quickly become problematic.

The Democrats have stayed out of things for the most part—letting the dysfunction of Capitol Hill Republicans shine through. Voters will remember come election time. Appropriations legislation traditionally begins in the House. The move by Schumer means there’s little faith in Speaker McCarthy’s chances of acting in the nick of time to avoid the shutdown.

The UN meetings on climate and sustainable development goals have brought out hundreds of thousands of demonstrators worldwide. Many have Biden in their sights over his continuing to open federal lands and oceans to oil and gas and companies—among other things. 

The message of climate activists is focused on stopping the use of fossil fuels—NOW. They’re right to say that successfully combating climate change means no more fossil fuels. The longer we wait the harsher will be the options for responding to a warming climate. The problem, of course, is getting policies passed that are significantly farther-reaching than even the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

The hyperpartisanship that now dominates American politics means passing the needed policies just isn’t going to happen. Republican ideology is that climate change isn’t that much of a problem and is part of a progressive socialist agenda. It is important, too, to understand that implementing new policies will take a fair amount of time. New regulations would need to be written and finalized. Agencies would have to staff up and develop program guidelines. 

The Biden administration’s experiences with the IRA are an example of the difficulty of implementation. Trump caused many senior and experienced government executives to leave their agencies. Even now agencies are understaffed. Could the administration’s efforts be improved? They could, but the fact remains that implementation of any new policies will take years not months.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Joel B. Stronberg is a senior executive and attorney and the founder and principal of The JBS Group, a Washington, DC consulting firm. Joel is currently advising the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization project at Columbia University’s Sabin Center along with his other clients.

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