WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders in Congress demanded Friday that major legislation on roads, bridges and other infrastructure include efforts to curb global warming, complicating prospects for a deal with President Donald Trump on a jobs-boosting bill that both parties have targeted as a priority.
Sen. Chuck Schumer said Friday in a letter to Trump that climate change will cause "untold human suffering and significant damage to the U.S. economy" if left unchecked. The New York Democrat called for permanent tax credits to boost production of wind and solar energy and to make homes and offices more energy efficient. He also urged loans to communities that would invest in projects that limit damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters.
The letter comes as liberal groups and lawmakers —including Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York— push to ensure that policies to address climate change remain at the top of the Democrats' legislative agenda. Ocasio-Cortez, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives are calling for a "Green New Deal" that would ramp up efforts to install solar panels and wind turbines and manufacture more electric vehicles.
Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have singled out infrastructure investment as an issue that Republicans and Democrats could potentially rally around next year after Democrats assume control of the House. But Trump has made it a priority to undo his predecessor's efforts to curb global warming, voicing concerns that they get in the way of a strong economy.
Trump also has rejected a central conclusion of a dire report on the economic costs of climate change released by his own administration. The report, issued last month, warned that natural disasters are worsening in the United States because of global warming, with costs approaching $400 billion since 2015.
"I don't believe it," Trump said.
Lawmakers are already expected to struggle with the question of how to pay for an infrastructure bill, which is likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars even as federal budget deficits are expected to soar above $1 trillion this year. Using the infrastructure bill to address environmental concerns is certain to add additional tensions to the mix.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is seeking to become speaker in January, has indicated she will likely reinstate a special committee on climate change, although exact details have not been finalized. Pelosi created the committee when she became speaker in 2007, but it was disbanded after Republicans won back the House in 2010. Pelosi said Democrats will rebuild America with "with clean energy, smart technology and resilient infrastructure."