White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein told CNN on Sunday that President Joe Biden will pursue his climate agenda “with or without Congress,” following the news Thursday that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin wouldn’t back climate or tax provisions in his party’s budget reconciliation package.
“I think the President is very much, and very compelled to get Congress to work with him on his climate agenda. He’s already taken unprecedented action, and I think this is important because if he can’t find a legislative path to clean energy, the urgency of the problem is so significant that, as he said on Friday, he will find an executive order and rule change path to get there,” Bernstein told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
Biden said Friday during his trip to the Middle East that he would take “strong executive action” in response to Manchin walking away from a deal to address the climate crisis, citing concerns over spending and inflation.
“Inflation is absolutely killing many, many people. They can’t buy gasoline. They have a hard time buying groceries,” Manchin told a West Virginia radio host on Friday. “Everything they buy and consume for their daily lives is a hardship to them. Can’t we wait to make sure we do nothing to add to that?”
Bernstein on Sunday listed a series of steps the administration has already taken to address the climate crisis, including invoking the Defense Production Act to increase clean energy output, restoring emissions standards rolled back by the Trump administration and ramping up offshore wind energy production.
“He will continue to pursue that, with or without Congress, but the urgency of the issue, Dana, is, I think, it is beyond me how anyone could miss it,” he told Bash.
Still, Bernstein touted provisions in the Senate Democrats’ compromise legislation that he said “gives Americans a little bit of breathing room” by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and health care.
Also Sunday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed Manchin for throwing a wrench in the effort to pass the social spending bill, saying, “He didn’t abruptly do anything.”
“The problem was that we continue to talk to Manchin like he was serious. He was not,” Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, told ABC’s “This Week.”
When asked about what’s at stake for the climate agenda if the provisions in Democrats’ bill don’t pass, Sanders responded, “It ain’t Democrats. It isn’t the President. It is the future of the planet.”
“What this election must be about is whether or not we’re going to vote for candidates who are prepared to stand up for working people, stand up for the planet and have the courage to take on the billionaire class who dominates our economy and our political life,” he added, emphasizing the need to elect more progressives.
Meanwhile, Bernstein defended the President’s decision to meet – and fist bump – with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during their meeting Friday, telling Bash that, as an economic policy adviser, “I’m much more able to give you fulsome readout on meetings, not greetings” and that last week’s meeting in Saudi Arabia “is very much part of” the administration’s efforts to convince the kingdom to increase oil production capacity.
“We saw Saudi Arabia say that it would increase its capacity for oil production, and I refer you to them for more information there, but remember, Saudi Arabia is part of, of course, a part of OPEC, part of the cartel,” Bernstein said. “And the President has been, and other, some of our other members of our foreign policy team have been pressuring OPEC to increase production. And in fact, a few weeks ago, they talked about doing precisely that for July and August, increasing production by about 50%.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier that the administration was “hopeful” OPEC would commit to additional actions aimed at increasing oil output “in the coming weeks,” and that Biden and OPEC leaders would discuss the issue while in Saudi Arabia last week.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
CNN’s Ella Nilsen and Alison Main contributed to this report.