House Republicans Are Playing Debt-Ceiling Russian Roulette

Slashing Biden’s clean-energy incentives could hurt red states most.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters about the Republican debt-ceiling plan.Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/ZUMA

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Are House Republicans, if you’ll pardon the expression, peeing in their own Jacuzzi?

I raise this question because some of the spending cuts the House GOP and its quasi-leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, are demanding in exchange for raising the debt ceiling—a deal the Democrats have vowed to reject—are destined to hit Republican-led states hardest.

That’s likely true of the social programs such as food stamps that GOP members aim to further restrict. But it’s definitely the case for the host of clean-energy incentives (see page 2) of the Inflation Reduction Act Republicans just put on the chopping block. These federal perks have been flowing in spades to red states, notably Georgia, as Oliver Milman, a reporter for our Climate Desk partner the Guardian, pointed out in February. 

“Once known for its peaches and peanuts,” Milman wrote, Georgia “is rapidly becoming a crucible of US clean energy technology,” drawing billions in new solar, electric vehicle, and battery manufacturing subsidies, putting it at “the forefront of a swathe of southern states that are becoming a so-called ‘battery belt’ in the economic transition away from fossil fuels.”

Jack Conness, a transportation analyst at the University of Washington, helpfully put together a wonderful database depicting the jackpot that the IRA and the Chips and Science Act (CHIPS) represent for Republican-led local economies.

By his tally, Tennessee, Nevada, North Carolina, and Oklahoma have attracted more than $4 billion apiece in IRA investments to date. Ohio has brought in more than $6 billion, Arizona more than $7 billion, South Carolina more than $9 billion, and Georgia more than $13 billion. (Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky, in thrall to the coal industry and dead last in national wind and solar development, has barely taken advantage.) Conness’ database includes a map with locations of the announced IRA investments.

JackConness.com

For the winners, these federal investments are reviving manufacturing and creating scads of good jobs—Arizona, the Carolinas, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, and the perennially purple states of Nevada and Michigan project thousands each. Nationwide, by Conness’ count, IRA and CHIPS have resulted in $213 billion in investment to date—and almost 76,000 new jobs.     

House Republicans could—and should—be out there bragging about their economic revivals. Instead, they decided to lock themselves in a room with a bunch of bitter men and women, trying to figure out how best to shoot themselves and their constituents in the foot over a bill that is destined to go nowhere and might even lead to a economic crisis that hurts all Americans. It’s a bill that, much like this entire debt-ceiling circus, has been a colossal waste of America’s time when what we really need to do is electrify everything—fast.

But hey, at least they’re owning the libs.

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