POLITICS

Seeing A Make-or-Break Moment, Climate Groups Plan Blitz Over Congressional Recess

Dozens of environmental groups expect to spend tens of millions of dollars in August building support for climate legislation.

A coalition of climate-focused groups is readying a multimillion-dollar blitz of advertising, organizing and public events over Congress’s recess in August, seeing it as their best and last opportunity to influence members before Democrats start crafting crucial climate legislation this fall.

The coalition will host more than 500 events nationally, aiming to engage more than 1 million Americans, with a focus on states represented by moderate Democrats in the House and Senate who could make or break a deal. In total, the groups appear set to spend more than $20 million over the six-week period when members of the House and Senate leave Washington and head home to hear from their constituents. 

“This is the moment where we have an opportunity to move forward with bold climate policy, to meet the moment, to meet what science calls for and demands,” said Pete Maysmith, the senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters. “And we know that there is deep and strong support for it around the country. And so really what August is about is mobilizing that support.”

After bipartisan negotiations whittled down many of the key climate proposals in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package, climate groups and Democrats now see a separate piece of legislation ― set to be passed using a process called reconciliation that allows Democrats to bypass the filibuster’s 60 vote requirement ― as key to Biden’s pledge to combat the climate crisis. 

That legislation is set to be shaped over the course of months, with environmental groups and progressives aiming to include a clean-electricity standard and a civilian climate corps, among other climate-focused goals. But some of those provisions could face resistance from moderate Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Pine trees burn as the Dixie Fire rages in Twain, California, on Monday.
Pine trees burn as the Dixie Fire rages in Twain, California, on Monday.

In the past, interactions between voters and their members of Congress during the lengthy August recess ― this year’s break is set to run well into September ― have shaped the political mood in Washington, most famously when the so-called tea party Republicans ratcheted up opposition to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The coalition’s goal is to make climate action the dominant and defining issue of this recess.

“We know how popular these investments are,” said Felice Stadler, the vice president of campaigns at the Environmental Defense Fund Action. “But if we take our foot off the pedal and just assume that members know that this is important, we’re going to miss our opportunity.” 

The coalition is made up of more than 100 groups, including BlueGreen Alliance, Climate Action Campaign, Climate Power, Climate Reality, EDF Action, Environment America, the Green New Deal Network, the League of Conservation Voters, the Moms Clean Air Force and the Sierra Club.

The events will include everything from roundtables with small-business owners to town halls with members of Congress to an electric bus tour and rallies organized by faith groups.

The League of Conservation Voters is hiring 100 canvassers operating out of 15 offices in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia; and the Climate Action Campaign plans to spend $10 million on local organizing campaigns across 12 states and 19 competitive House districts.

Climate Power plans to spend $10 million on digital, television and newspaper ads in 29 House districts and five states that are expected to have competitive Senate races. And the Green New Deal network is planning to host 60 events across the country on a single day in August.