April 26 (Reuters) – The White House hopes to capitalize on growing support from U.S. utilities, unions and green groups for a national clean energy mandate by backing efforts to require the U.S. grid to get 80% of its power from emissions-free sources by 2030, according to a senior administration official.
A 2030 target would be a milestone on the way to achieving President Joe Biden’s stated ambition of net zero carbon emissions in the grid by 2035. It could also potentially be passed without Republican support through a process called budget reconciliation.
“Our goal is to enact this into law,” deputy White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told Reuters, speaking of the administration’s push for a so-called clean energy standard (CES) to decarbonize the power sector.
The latter would require reductions in emissions by adopting renewables like wind and solar, using nuclear energy or finding ways to suck up and sequester greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel plants.
“There are multiple pathways to get meaningful progress in the power sector,” Zaidi said. “We think this is a really powerful one in terms of giving utilities a clear and clean planning horizon.”
Requiring utilities to move away from coal and natural gas is a cornerstone of U.S. President Joe Biden’s plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half across the U.S. economy in the next decade.
Many utilities already have plans to remove carbon from their systems due to investor pressure or state mandates, so they broadly support the policy. They are concerned, however, that technological breakthroughs needed to reach zero emissions may not materialize in time to meet a 2035 timeline.
In a statement, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the administration’s 2035 goal was “overly ambitious.”
This month, however, 13 major utilities sent a letter to Biden in support of a power sector goal that would cut emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The country’s grid is currently just 40% clean, but getting to 80% by 2030 can be achieved with existing technologies at no additional cost to ratepayers in every region because the cost of renewables and batteries have come down so much, according to a new analysis by researchers at Energy Innovation and the University of California, Berkeley.
The policy has support from members of both parties in Congress, though Republicans have not embraced the administration’s aggressive timeline due to concerns that it will drive up costs and kill jobs in fossil fuel industries.
Democrats could pass a CES with a simple majority as a revision of budget legislation if the CES sets a 2030 target, since reconciliation measures must fall within a 10-year window.
The Senate is currently divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republican, but Democrats have control because Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie. Legislation outside of the reconciliation process would need 60 votes to bypass a potential Republican procedural move known as a filibuster.
The White House is weighing various legislative options and speaking to lawmakers in both parties.
Reporting by Nichola Groom and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
It should have been the safest of political appearances — a group of kids gushing about their love of science and space exploration with Vice President Kamala Harris.
But for Harris, it became a controversy.
The children, it turned out, were paid actors. And the video, filmed on location at the White House and the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory, was promoted on NASA’s YouTube Channel and Harris’ Twitter account last week without making that clear.
The fallout over the video, produced for YouTube’s original programming platform, is the second in recent weeks where a seemingly innocuous appearance by Harris has become modestly troublesome.
Late last month, Harris generated more serious consternation and criticism from pro-Israel Democrats and media for not pushing back when a student at a classroom encounter at George Mason University in Virginia accused Israel of “ethnic genocide.” Harris spent the next several days clarifying her longstanding support for Israel and reaching out to pro-Israel organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League.
Such stumbles have been featured extensively in conservative media, where Harris is a regular target. But they also reinforce concerns among Democrats that Harris has not yet found her political footing since taking office amid high expectations. The presumed front-runner to succeed President Biden on the Democratic ticket in 2024 or 2028, Harris recently enlisted two veteran Democrats to help stabilize her communications efforts.
Harris’ office and NASA would not discuss the decision-making process that led to her participation in the YouTube Original or the administration’s marketing of the special, which was produced by a Canada-based company called Sinking Ship Entertainment.
Harris’s office did not select the children who participated in the YouTube Originals special, a White House official said. A YouTube spokesperson said that “the casting process for this show was no different from typical unscripted kids’ shows across other networks and streaming platforms.”
The special debuted during World Space Week. It features NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough giving five children the clues for a scavenger hunt that takes them to the U.S. Naval Observatory, where they not-so casually run into Harris, who welcomes them onto the porch of the vice presidential residence.
While sitting in a white chair alongside the children, Harris reminisces about going to the lab with her scientist mother during her childhood and says she is excited to chair the National Space Council. She offers advice to the children about showing their true selves.
“Never let anybody tell you who you are,” she tells them. “You tell them who you are.”
Like many online productions, the special has the feel of something between a kids’-oriented news segment and a scripted show. The children, who introduce themselves with their hometowns, act surprised and excited as they meet the real-life astronaut and the vice president.
Earlier this week, one of the children who appeared in the video described in detail his audition process to KSBW TV in Salinas, which sparked mockery online and news coverage. Harris’ appearance drew especially sharp critiques in conservative news outlets. Fox News, in its coverage, has tried to draw a comparison to the criticism unleashed on former President Trump after his 2015 campaign launch in which he paid people to act like supporters.
Appearing as a guest on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show, commentator Candace Owens falsely told viewers that Harris paid children to appear in the special.
White House officials have a long history of appearing as themselves in scripted shows, often with children. First Lady Nancy Reagan promoted her anti-drug message on the popular 1980s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” and then-President Obama participated in a televised sketch alongside comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
The difference this time was that the show’s format was ambiguous, and its presentation and promotion by Harris and NASA led commentators to believe it had been produced by the government.
Communications consultants said the vice president’s staff should have more thoroughly vetted the program and ensured it was clearly labeled as a reality show with paid actors when the U.S. government promoted it.
Ultimately, Harris’ staff let her down, they said.
“The vice president and the president can’t do their own vetting on things like this,” said Kevin Madden, who served in senior communications roles for Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
Madden added that Harris should not have participated in the program with paid actors, especially “in an era where there is a very high quotient of fake news and misinformation, you have to expect this kind of scrutiny.”
“The criticism [here] becomes warranted,” he said.
Kamala Harris is campaigning for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. (Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley questioned whether Vice President Kamala Harris deliberately tried to violate the law by creating a video played to black Virginia churchgoers, urging them to vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
“The Biden Administration has to enforce our tax laws, including rules governing 501(c)3 organizations, including churches,” Turley told Laura Ingraham on Monday’s “The Ingraham Angle.” “Now part of those regulations include what’s called the Johnson Amendment, and that prohibits direct politicking in churches in order to be tax-exempt.”
“If the White House participated in this plan to have direct politicking, they would have assisted in that violation. Now that puts them in a rather awkward position since their administration has to enforce this very rule.”
Kamala Harris: “When I was growing up, we sang in the choir at Oakland’s 23rd Ave. Church of God. We were taught that it was our sacred responsibility to raise our voice and lift up the voices of our community….Virginians, you have the opportunity now to raise your voice through your vote because it’s election time. I believe that my friend, Terry McAuliffe, is the leader Virginia needs at this moment.”
Laura Ingraham: “Now that, of course, was Vice President Kamala Harris’ virtual address to black churches across the commonwealth of Virginia yesterday that was piped in.
“Now apart from her, well, professed religiosity, Kamala’s get out the vote sermon has a serious problem: it might be illegal.
“Joining me now is Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor, Fox News contributor. Professor Turley, both parties have appeared in churches at campaign seasons, that has happened. But what happened here with Kamala Harris that might run afoul of the regs or the law?”
Jonathan Turley: “Well the Biden Administration has to enforce our tax laws, including rules governing 501(c)3 organizations, including churches.
“Now part of those regulations include what’s called the Johnson Amendment, and that prohibits direct politicking in churches in order to be tax-exempt.
“So, if churches play this video, they would be in violation of federal law. If the White House participated in this plan to have direct politicking, they would have assisted in that violation. Now that puts them in a rather awkward position since their administration has to enforce this very rule.
Ingraham: “Well, Merrick Garland is focusing on the Jan. 6 grandmas and grandpas to make sure they stay in whatever type of confinement they’re in. But she did give explicit instructions, professor, on how churchgoers could actually vote. Watch this.
Harris: “Early voting has already started and this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday. So please, vote after today’s service, and if you cannot vote today, make a plan to go vote. Go to iwillvote.com.”
Ingraham: “Now, Professor Turley, this is always called the souls to the polls. Pushing voters to a specific website? Now does that bring more problems to them if we had a Justice Department or an IRS prosecutorial arm that was actually going to do something?”
Turley: “Well, it’s an extraordinary video because the White House could always argue that ‘we just made the video; the violators are the churches who decided to play them.’ But that doesn’t quite work when the video is referencing churches and their services and saying go directly from church to vote.
“So the question here is did the White House knowingly create a video to violate federal law? Now clearly, they’re not the ones that would lose their tax-exempt status; it’d be churches if this were ever fully enforced. But there’s a serious problem if you’re encouraging these violations. What’s interesting, Laura, is President Trump really did not like the Johnson Amendment, insisted that he was going to get rid of it.
“And when he did, many Democrats, many legal experts cried foul, and they said this is destroying the separation of church and state, this is encouraging the violation of federal law. And yet, after this video played, there was nothing but crickets from many of those areas.”
Ingraham: “Well, I think they’re obviously very concerned about what’s happening in some of these polls and they’re pulling out all the stops: getting Obama to campaign there and others. Professor Turley, it’s great to see you, thank you.”
Megan Williams is a CNSNews intern and junior at Hillsdale College. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Public Address with a Journalism minor. She is the assistant opinions editor for the Hillsdale Collegian and enjoys covering local events, from concerts to conventions. Born and raised in Southern California, Megan is excited to experience D.C. and grow as a journalist with CNSNews.
WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) – Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will convene a second meeting on Thursday of the White House labor task force, a group of cabinet secretaries and top aides that aims to boost union membership in the country, two officials with knowledge of the matter said.
The group will discuss recommendations for a report commissioned by President Joe Biden in April on ways existing policies can promote labor organizing in the federal government, new policies that are needed and associated regulatory challenges. The report is due in late October, a White House official and a senior administration official, who did not wish to be named said.
The meeting on Thursday will be attended by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, the White House official said.
Others including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will attend virtually.
“The group will discuss taskforce progress so far, including significant recommendations for executive actions in their upcoming report,” the White House official said. It will also discuss ways the administration can leverage the federal government’s authority as an employer to promote worker organizing.
In June, Harris held the first field meeting of the taskforce in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and spoke to union organizers about their campaign to increase union membership and barriers to organizing.
Between 1979 and 2020, the percentage of American workers represented by a union dropped by 14.9 percentage points, according to estimates from the White House. As a result of that drop, American workers are losing out on $200 billion a year in wages and benefits they could have achieved under union contracts, the White House has said.
President Biden’s administration may be the most overtly pro-union since Harry Truman left the Oval Office nearly 70 years ago, labor leaders and outside analysts have said, citing actions that have put unions at the center of policy — viewing them as vehicles not only to rebuild middle-class jobs but also to address climate change and racial and gender inequity.
Earlier this year, the U.S. labor movement suffered a significant setback when an effort to organize warehouse workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama failed badly. In August, a U.S. labor board official recommended a rerun of the landmark union election. read more
The death of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who had close ties to Biden, and had been an influential outside voice in helping to shape his ambitious jobs and infrastructure proposals, has also posed a challenge to the American labor movement.
Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons, Chris Sanders and Richard Pullin
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
WASHINGTON—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans are united behind stopping President Biden’s agenda, putting a damper on already slim hopes for bipartisan cooperation in Congress ahead of more talks with the White House on a possible infrastructure deal.
“One hundred percent of my focus is standing up to this administration,” the Kentucky Republican said at a press conference in his home state Wednesday, in response to questions about infighting among House Republicans. “What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country,” he said, referring to the senators from Maine and Texas.