We have seen much of what President Biden’s administration will be doing about climate change through Executive Office actions. But what about the legislative branch? With Democrats holding the slimmest possible edge in the Senate and a modest edge in the House, what might realistically happen?

Answers to this important question are by nature somewhat complicated. And there are always some chances for surprises, unexpected developments triggered by exceptional events.

For a terrific overview that pays particular attention to the rules controlling legislation, see Marianne Lavelle’s piece in Inside Climate News. Complement it with Laurie Goering’s short, pragmatic, optimistic piece from Reuters.

The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer offers another useful overview of what to watch for now from the federal government. Short version: instead of one giant bill, we’ll likely see climate action infused into a wide variety of bills – just as we’re seeing a concern for climate infused throughout a broad section of President Biden’s cabinet-level choices.

Two technical routes will be immediately important for more direct legislative moves, both covered in recent Yale Climate Connections articles. On budget reconciliation, see Dana Nuccitelli’s insightful piece on using the Congressional Review Act, and see Jan Ellen Spiegel’s deep dive.

Given the narrow majorities, the prospects for no near-term action revising the 60-vote filibuster threshold, and differences among Democratic senators, any new climate bills will require bipartisan support – the sorts of things included in the December 2020 COVID-relief package.

Another piece by Marianne Lavelle, written before final election results (also before the Capitol attack and the second impeachment), focuses on this challenge. So does this interesting look at the senators and representatives who come from states taking significant climate actions (Center for American Progress). Similarly, this piece (Science) considers likely new Democratic senate committee chairs.

West Virginia’s Joe Manchin may well be the linchpin, not least because he’s chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Two very useful views of what this coal-state moderate might do are pieces by James Bruggers in Inside Climate News and by Sarah Kaplan and Dino Grandoni in the Washington Post.


This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

SueEllen Campbell

SueEllen Campbell created and for over a decade curated the website "100 Views of Climate Change," a multidisciplinary collection of pieces accessible to interested non-specialists. She is especially interested...