Some Senate Democrats say they will oppose infrastructure deal with GOP if climate measures are dropped, potentially derailing package

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Ron Wyden
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asks questions to a panel of pharmaceutical company CEOs during a hearing held by the Senate Finance Committee on "Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part II" February 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from a panel of pharmaceutical company CEOs on the reasons for rising costs of prescription drugs. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Some Democratic senators say they will oppose a bipartisan infrastructure deal that doesn't address climate crisis.

  • "On a big infrastructure bill, to pass on climate altogether? No way," Sen. Ron Wyden told Insider on Thursday.

  • Biden's willingness to pursue a deal may produce a watered-down plan with Republicans that may cost him Democratic support.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A group of Senate Democrats are ratcheting up their criticism of ongoing infrastructure negotiations with Republicans - and a few are warning they would derail a deal that omits climate change measures.

At least six Democratic senators have publicly raised concern that a bill negotiated with Republicans would produce a watered-down package inadequate to meet the scale of the climate crisis over the past week. They include Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; Martin Heinrich of New Mexico; and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

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But a pair of Democrats are going further. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have both said in recent days that they would oppose a package that didn't include provisions to aggressively combat climate change. That's been a top priority for the Biden administration

"On a big infrastructure bill, to pass on climate altogether? No way," Wyden told Insider on Thursday. "Think I'm blunt enough? No way."

Markey was similarly stark.

"We can't have an infrastructure bill in 2021 that doesn't have climate at its center," Markey said in an MSNBC interview on the same day. "No climate, no deal."

The increasing tempo of criticism represents a major challenge for President Joe Biden as he continues pursuing a bipartisan infrastructure deal. He laid out a sprawling proposal to accelerate the nation's transition from fossil fuels to clean energy with measures like federal support to build a network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

Other provisions include green-energy tax incentives and money to retrofit homes into energy-efficient ones. But Republicans have dismissed the climate plans as measures going far beyond their infrastructure definition, which is confined to roads, bridges, and broadband.

Biden has expressed a willingness to cut his initial proposal, a move that could cost him Democratic support in both the Senate and House and derail the plan. Still, some GOP senators argue that Democrats should be satisfied with a focus on shoring up the country's ability to endure the worsening catastrophes.

"If they're looking for a line item that says 'climate,' they're not going to see that. As we know, climate initiatives can be incorporated in so much," Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters on Thursday. "If you have support for dealing with the threats of erosion and flooding and the superstorms - that is climate-related."

Murkowski added: "We kind of capture so much of it in the resiliency area. If people look to the specifics, they'll see that there is plenty there."

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