Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday backed calls to include a civilian “climate corps” in the upcoming Democrat-only $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package.
The New York Democrat endorsed the program at a press conference on Capitol Hill with environmental groups and progressive lawmakers.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to confront the climate crisis and create millions of permanent, good-paying, union jobs,” said Mr. Schumer. “It’s a great opportunity to combine those things. I have made addressing the climate crisis … the primary focus of our debate on infrastructure.”
Mr. Schumer, in particular, pledged to use his “power as majority leader to ensure the civilian climate corps” is included in the Senate’s upcoming $3.5 trillion social welfare package.
That bill, which is packed with liberal priorities, is set to pass without Republican votes in a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows some spending and tax measures to avoid the 60-vote threshold and pass with 51 votes.
“I will fight to get the biggest, boldest [climate conservation corps] possible,” said Mr. Schumer.
Based on the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the program would put young Americans to work on green energy-related projects. Participants would be paid $15 an hour or more for weatherizing buildings, fighting forest fires and capping oil wells.
The program will be run as an extension of AmeriCorps and “other national, state and local service organizations,” according to an outline of the proposal.
Joining Mr. Schumer in endorsing the policy were more than 80 Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. Mr. Wyden, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will play a large role in the reconciliation process.
“Let me make a commitment to you right now, as I also serve on the Senate Budget Committee,” said Mr. Wyden. “We are going to have a broad berth in that budget resolution for a civilian climate corps, period. We will reconcile our various bills.”
Mr. Schumer’s pledge to include a civilian climate corps within reconciliation comes as Democrats struggle to line up the votes for the package. To make it more palatable, Democratic leaders are linking it to a $1.2 trillion conventional infrastructure deal that has bipartisan support.
It is unclear, however, if that will be enough. Moderate Democrats within both the House and Senate have bristled at the size and scope of the reconciliation package.