President Biden's legacy-defining infrastructure and climate proposals face a challenging road ahead in Congress, in large part because of objections by two moderate Democrats in the U.S. Senate -- Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Arizona's renewable energy industry held a roundtable with a representative from Sinema's office, urging support for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation, which is considered the most significant legislative effort to address climate change in U.S. history.
Ben Stewart, Sinema's outreach director in Washington, told renewable energy stakeholders that Sinema will support legislation that is crafted in a "bipartisan manner." The $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, notably, only needs support by Democrats to pass.
Stewart predicted the size of the budget reconciliation bill will cross the finish line at about half of its initial size. Progressive Democrats in the U.S. House have said they won't vote in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure package without assurances that the budget bill will also move forward in the Senate.
"She's been very public that she doesn't support the full $3.5 trillion," Stewart said. "She always goes back to, as long we're working in a bipartisan way, and it makes sense, and we're not saddling the nation with more taxes and more debt, that's what her mindset is."
Q: What do you say to progressives who are frustrated they don’t know where you are?
SINEMA: “I’m in the Senate.”
Q: There are progressives in the Senate that are also frustrated they don’t know where your are either.
SINEMA: “I’m clearly right in front of the elevator.”
Renewable energy companies employ close to 10,000 Arizona workers and have invested $9 billion in projects statewide, according to the American Council on Renewable Energy.
Raymond Long, senior vice president of external affairs at Clearway Energy, said during the roundtable discussion that transmission upgrades included in the bipartisan infrastructure package, as well as the extension of renewable energy tax credits in the budget reconciliation proposal, are crucial to reaching the Biden administration's emissions targets.
"Arizona has a great opportunity to benefit from its natural resources while attracting businesses and creating jobs through solar energy," Long said.