ARVADA, Colorado (AP) — President Joe Biden tried to advance his domestic spending plans Tuesday by touring a renewable energy lab in Colorado to highlight how his clean-energy proposals would help combat climate change and create good-paying jobs along the way.
The trip to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Flatirons Campus outside Denver capped the president’s two-day swing to the West, and offered Biden the chance to continue linking the need to pass his spending package to the urgent threat posed by climate change.
Biden spoke about “more jobs for the economy” as he checked out a giant windmill blade laying on the ground outside the lab and got a demonstration of wind turbine technology.
And, keenly aware of the delicate work under way back in Washington to craft details of his infrastructure-plus spending package, he gestured at Democratic legislators along for the tour and said, “They're the ones getting it all through Congress.”
He was scheduled to deliver remarks later about how his proposals would help tackle the climate crisis and modernize infrastructure while creating good-paying union jobs.
Biden had spent Monday in Boise, Idaho, and Sacramento, California, receiving briefings on the devastating wildfire season and viewing the damage by the Caldor Fire to communities around Lake Tahoe.
“We can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change,” Biden said, noting that catastrophic weather doesn’t strike based on partisan ideology. “It isn’t about red or blue states. It’s about fires. Just fires.”
Throughout his trip, Biden held out the wildfires across the region as an argument for his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and additional $3.5 trillion package of spending. The president said every dollar spent on “resilience” would save $6 in future costs. And he made the case that the rebuilding must go beyond simply restoring damaged systems and instead ensure communities can withstand such crises.
“These fires are blinking ‘code red’ for our nation. They’re gaining frequency and ferocity,” Biden said after concluding his tour of the Caldor Fire damage. “We know what we have to do.”
The climate provisions in Biden’s plans include tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicles, investments to transition the economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources such as wind and solar power, and creation of a civilian climate corps.
Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuel in the power sector by 2035 and from the U.S. economy overall by 2050.
While in California, Biden also campaigned for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election Tuesday. Speaking at a rally in Long Beach, Biden framed the recall as a battle against “Trump Republicans trying to block us from beating this pandemic" and characterized Newsom's leading Republican opponent as “another Trump climate denier.”
The president’s two-day Western swing comes at a critical juncture for a central plank of his legislative agenda. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to assemble details of the infrastructure-plus plan — and how to pay for it, a concern not just for Republicans.
Besides unified Republican opposition in Congress, Biden needs to overcome the skepticism of two key centrist Democrats in the closely divided Senate. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed concerns about the size of the $3.5 trillion spending package.
Manchin said Sunday, “I cannot support $3.5 trillion,” citing his opposition to a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and vast new social spending envisioned by the president. Manchin also complained about a process he said feels rushed.
In California, Biden appeared to respond to those concerned about the plan’s size, saying the cost “may be” as much as $3.5 trillion and would be spread out over 10 years, a period during which the economy is expected to grow. He also insisted that, when it comes to addressing climate change, “we have to think big.”
"Thinking small is a prescription for disaster,” he said.
The 100-member Senate is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Given solid GOP opposition, Biden’s plan cannot pass the Senate without Manchin's or Sinema’s support.
Superville reported from Washington.
Alexandra Jaffe And Darlene Superville, The Associated Press