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Peter R. Orszag

Congress’s Infrastructure Plan Must Put Climate First

It’s dangerous to allow the spending debate to prioritize the federal deficit.

Urgent problem.

Urgent problem.

Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

As the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief legislation moves to the Senate, it temporarily distracts attention from even more ambitious legislation that’s set to follow — President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better recovery plan — and the battle it’s sure to provoke. At the heart of this brewing fight is the question of which does more to protect the future: addressing climate change or containing fiscal risks. Because it probably won’t be possible to accomplish both, climate mitigation must come first.

The recovery plan will include trillions of dollars of investment in infrastructure, clean energy and other things. And the coming debate will consider whether that new spending should be offset by revenue increases or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.