As Build Back Better stagnates, faith leaders call on Biden and Senate for ‘moment of courage’ on climate | earth beat
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington on January 14. Mitch Landrieu, Senior Infrastructure Advisor, is also pictured. (CNS/Reuters/Kévin Lamarque)
Nearly 100 faith leaders have called on President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer not to abandon the Democrats’ massive Build Back Better program and its hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change, saying that ” it’s a moment of courage” as the bill stalled and fell behind other legislative priorities.
“We cannot delay enacting the Build Back Better Act. This vital legislation will protect our climate and put our nation on the path to climate justice, environmental justice and intergenerational justice,” a coalition of 86 leaders religious of national, state and local denomination. The U.S.-based organizations and congregations wrote in a Feb. 14 letter to Biden, Schumer, and the entire U.S. Senate.
Signatories to the letter, mostly from Christian and Jewish traditions as well as many national and regional interfaith groups, said they represent millions of believers and hundreds of thousands of religious communities. Among them were nearly two dozen congregations of Catholic nuns and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group that represents about 80 percent of Catholic sisters nationwide.
“It’s a moment that future generations will look back on, to see if we did what the moment called for.”
“We share a moral call to care for our common home, God’s creation, and to love our neighbors here and around the world,” the faith leaders said. “Many of our communities have suffered the severe impacts of climate change: wildfires, superstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and increasingly intense weather events that are causing damage, injury and loss of life. We are running out of time to avoid even more serious consequences.”
Highlighting principles of prophetic leadership espoused by Dr Martin Luther King Jr., the faith leaders said it was a moment of conviction and “a moment of courage”.
“It’s a moment that future generations will look back on, to see if we did the right thing,” they added. “We still have a chance to do the right thing.”
The letter comes at a time when Build Back Better, the cornerstone of Biden’s national social agenda, has escaped the legislative spotlight as Congress has turned attention to the situation in Ukraine, tackling inflation. , a slate of bipartisan bills, and the president’s next Supreme Court. candidate for justice.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, presides over the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington on November 19, 2021, as the Build Back Better Act passes and passes through the Senate. (CNS/Reuters/Al Drago)
The Build Back Better Act proposes approximately $1.7 trillion in spending over 10 years to address climate change and a number of social issues, including expanding child care, Medicaid, Medicare, credits extended child tax relief, reduced prescription drug costs and the provision of affordable housing.
On climate, he describes $555 billion that would provide tax credits for solar installation, electric vehicles and energy efficiency improvements, as well as a tax on methane emissions, a direct funding to historically disadvantaged communities and the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps.
The climate provisions form the bulk of the updated U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement to halve national greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, raising the comes out of the bill as a subject of international attention.
Globally, the past eight years have been the warmest on record. In 2021, the United States broke more heat records than any other year, and the country racked up the second billion dollar weather-related disasters in its history, totaling $145 billion. A federal multi-agency report on Tuesday predicted that coastal marine waters will increase by one foot over the next three decadesi.e. the same level of increase observed in the 20th century.
Build Back Better’s prospects hit a wall in late December, when Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he could not vote for the legislation in the form passed by the House of Representatives in November.
The support of Manchin, a moderate Catholic, is essential as Democrats have sought to advance the bill through budget reconciliation – a process that allows passage to a simple majority in a 50-50 Senate, with the Vice President Kamala Harris able to throw a tiebreaker vote. So far, no Republican senator has indicated support for the bill, meaning the Democratic-controlled Congress faces a tight timeline with the 2022 midterm elections looming in November.
So far this year, Manchin has called the bill a “dead” and said further negotiations with the White House had not taken place. Still, Biden continued to sell his plan to the American public, speaking last week in Virginia and at the White House with the heads of 10 electric utilities. The president and others have also signaled that the bill could be broken into separate piecesincluding a single climate law.
In a statement, Mercy Sr. Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, said Build Back Better’s climate investments are “essential” to not only combat climate change, but to “address the environmental injustice while creating jobs in the shift to a clean energy future.”
She also asked critics about the bill’s total spending, which over the decade would average about $170 billion a year.
“How can members of Congress talk about fiscal responsibility when they balk at this investment, when they are more than willing to appropriate trillions of dollars for weapons and military operations, even beyond what the Pentagon asked for?” McDermott said, referring to the December passage of the annual defense bill that authorized $770 billion in fiscal year 2022 alone.
“We believe our communities and future generations deserve better,” she said.
McDermott was one of two dozen Catholic sisters to sign the letter. Other religious leaders included the Reverend Susan Hendershot, president of Interfaith Power & Light; Reverend Gerald Durley, Chairman of the Board of Interfaith Power & Light; Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner of the Reform Judaism Religious Action Center; Bridget Moix, Secretary General of the Friends Committee on National Legislation; Reverend Jim Antal, special climate adviser for the United Church of Christ; and the Reverend Adam Russell Taylor, president of Sojourners.
In their letter, the religious leaders said the “injustice of climate change” – where those least responsible for emitting heat-trapping greenhouse gases often suffer first and worst from the effects of rising temperatures – requires the United States to lead the global response.
“As the richest country in the world and a country that has emitted more carbon pollution than any other, we have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to resolve this crisis,” they said.
“Although it seems an impossible task, it is the task of the leaders at this time,” the religious leaders wrote. “Now is the time to commit to doing the right thing. The climate cannot wait. People across the country want bold climate action to protect our common home.”
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