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Raimondo to stress climate change in pressing businesses to get behind Biden's $3.5T bill

Business groups opposed the Democrats-only spending bill over concerns about tax increases.
Image: Vice President Harris Meets With Mexican Foreign Minister
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the Eisenhower Office Building on Sept. 9, 2021.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Thursday will press big business to drop its opposition to President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion safety net expansion, arguing that companies claiming to be serious about tackling climate change now must live up to their public commitments.

In remarks to the City Club of Cleveland, Raimondo plans to push back on efforts by the business lobby to kill or water down the sweeping legislation that Democrats hope to pass through the budget reconciliation process, according to excerpts of Raimondo’s speech obtained by NBC News.

Emphasizing the high and growing costs of recovering from climate-related events, the secretary will point out that a third of Americans live in areas where a federal disaster has been declared within the last three weeks.

Last year, climate and weather events cost the U.S. more than $96 billion, Raimondo will say.

“Some people ask whether we can afford to spend the money it’s going to take to reverse the climate crisis,” Raimondo says in her prepared remarks. “We are already paying for the climate crisis. And it’s getting worse. We cannot afford to sit on our hands any longer.”

Raimondo’s remarks are the most public effort to date by the Biden administration to call out influential political groups that represent corporate interests for lobbying against the reconciliation package and Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and others endorsed the bipartisan, trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, many of those same groups have ardently opposed the larger, Democrats-only spending bill, citing concerns about tax increases that they say will hamper the U.S. economic recovery from Covid-19.

“The chamber will do everything we can to prevent this tax-raising, job-killing reconciliation bill from becoming law,” Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark said in a statement last month.

The Chamber of Commerce said in response to Raimondo's remarks that the Democrats-only reconciliation bill fell short of “a serious attempt to establish durable climate policy,” describing it as a Democratic wish list that lacked enough support to be passed by normal means.

“This isn’t a climate bill, it is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bill,” a chamber spokesman said. “We are not going to solve climate change or any other policy problem that way.”

Many of the same groups opposing the spending bill have made major public pronouncements about taking action on climate change, with a raft of major U.S. corporations this year making pledges to go “net zero” with greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and more frequent extreme weather events.

Raimondo, in her speech to the Cleveland group, will argue that supporting investments now to boost the clean energy industry and improve resiliency to wildfires and hurricanes will be a boost to the U.S. economy, not a drag.

“These industries are the future of job creation. That is undeniable,” Raimondo plans to say. “The only open question is whether those jobs will be here, in America, or somewhere else.”