Republicans say the president’s initial calls for unity feel empty with what they consider an attack on the energy sector during an economic recession that already has the industry ailing.
“You can’t just go cold turkey overnight,” Rep. Bruce Westerman (Ark.), the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a recent interview. “You’ve got to figure out a way to keep the economy strong.”
Biden’s energy secretary nominee is bearing the brunt of the Republican pushback so far.
Confirmation hearings for even his uncontroversial Cabinet picks have become forums for Republican lawmakers to air their grievances with recent Biden decisions, including calls to calculate the cost of carbon emissions to society and to pause oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters.
Biden and his team say his climate agenda doubles as a plan to create thousands of union jobs constructing and installing wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, charging stations and the like. “I am obsessed with creating good-paying jobs in America,” energy secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm told senators during her hearing Wednesday.But Republicans from oil- and gas-producing states grilled her on how quickly those jobs would come to fruition.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-mining state, grilled Granholm about the halt in new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. “I’m not going to sit idly by,” he said, “if the Biden administration enforces policies that threaten Wyoming’s economy.” His office issued a statement calling Biden’s decision on leasing “divisive and illegal.”
In response, Granholm noted Biden’s executive order does not ban drilling on the thousands of leases already sold to drillers.
“Big Oil’s sky-is-falling claims are unfounded,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, a senior policy analyst for public lands at the Center for American Progress.
Biden’s other Cabinet picks are also being pressed.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said in an interview Tuesday that he’s asked every Biden Cabinet nominee whether they’re committed to sustaining oil and gas development along with renewable energy in the United States.
“What would you say to those 11,000 construction workers whose jobs have been destroyed by the stroke of a pen?” Cruz said, though that number refers to temporary jobs, barring 50 or so permanent positions.
“I would say that we’re going to get you to work,” she responded. “I would say that climate change is a threat to all of us.”
Republicans are mulling ways of shaping — or stalling — Biden’s climate agenda.
The initial reaction put a damper on hopes of much of the rest Biden’s climate agenda, which will require approval from Congress, getting bipartisan support. With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Democrats need some GOP help to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold to pass sweeping legislation. Riled-up Senate Republicans may be primed to block much of Biden’s legislative agenda on climate.
On the other side of the Capitol, top Republicans plan to talk to Democrats from oil, gas and coal states. The path for bills to pass the House got narrower for Democrats after losing seats in the 2020 election.
“Republicans, Democrats and independents all breathe the air and drink the water, but I don’t think this is the right approach,” said Westerman, who advocates for planting and harvesting trees to keep carbon out of the air.
Outside Washington, six Republican attorneys general warned Biden not to overstep his authority with his executive actions. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who led the letter, sued to block the Obama administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Now, Morrisey told Fox News that Biden’s climate plan is “much more radical” than President Barack Obama’s. “The president is really taking a wrecking ball to many of the states that have oil, gas, coal, manufacturing jobs.”