By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to offer a sweeping critique of the Democratic Party’s new reconciliation package, applying particularly close scrutiny to the legislation’s massive and destructive handouts to the fossil fuel industry.
While Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the Inflation Reduction Act’s “serious funding for wind, solar, batteries, heat pumps, electric vehicles, energy-efficient appliances, and low-income communities that have borne the brunt of climate change,” he raised concerns about the “billions of dollars in new tax breaks and subsidies” that the oil and gas industry will receive under the measure, which could get a Senate vote as soon as this week.
“We have got to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry.”
“In my view, if we are going to make our planet healthy and habitable for future generations, we cannot provide billions of dollars in new tax breaks to the very same fossil fuel companies that are currently destroying the planet,” the Vermont senator said. “Under this legislation, up to 60 million acres of public waters must be offered up for sale each and every year to the oil and gas industry before the federal government could approve any new offshore wind development.”
Sanders proceeded to spotlight some of the fossil fuel industry’s positive responses to the measure, which was negotiated primarily by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the top recipient of oil and gas campaign donations in Congress.
As one telling example, the Vermont senator pointed to a Bloomberg headline from last week that reads, “Exxon CEO Loves What Manchin Did for Big Oil in $370 Billion Deal.”
“If the CEO of ExxonMobil, a company that has done as much as any entity to destroy this planet—if he is ‘pleased’ with this bill, then I think all of us should have some very deep concerns about what is in this legislation,” said Sanders. “In total, this bill will offer the fossil fuel industry up to 700 million acres of public lands and waters… to oil and gas drilling over the next decade—far more than the oil and gas industry could possibly use.”
Sanders also expressed alarm about the newly released side deal between Manchin and the Democratic leadership that would pave the way for approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline—a major fracked gas project that runs through West Virginia—and limit environmental reviews of new energy infrastructure.
To bolster his case against the Senate deal’s “huge giveaway” to the fossil fuel industry, Sanders cited objections to the new legislation from prominent environmental groups including 350.org and the Center for Biological Diversity, the latter of which called the bill a “climate suicide pact” last week.
“In my view,” said Sanders, “we have got to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry, not give billions of dollars in corporate welfare to an industry whose emissions are causing massive damage today and will only make the situation worse in the future.”
Throughout his floor speech, Sanders examined every major section of the new reconciliation proposal and highlighted what he views as their serious shortcomings and omissions, including the complete absence of child care and housing funding.
“The prescription drug provisions in this bill are extremely weak, they are extremely complex, they take too long to go into effect, and they go nowhere near far enough to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry whose greed is literally killing Americans,” the senator said of the bill’s proposal to require Medicare to negotiate a small number of medicines directly with drug companies.
Sanders didn’t say the bill’s flaws are sufficiently grave for him to vote no, but he did signal that he will be offering amendments in an attempt to improve it before final passage.
“This more than 700-page bill, after months of secret negotiations, became public late last week,” he said. “In my view, now is the time for every member of the Senate to study this bill thoroughly and to come up with amendments and suggestions as to how we can improve it. I look forward to being part of that process.”