Student coalition blasts Chamber of Commerce over climate change, opposition to Biden's budget bill

A coalition of over 100 student environmental action groups from universities across the United States will send a letter Wednesday to 54 large companies that belong to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asking them to push back against the Chamber’s campaign to block President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, Yahoo News has learned.

The umbrella organization Change the Chamber, which was formed last year to combat the Chamber of Commerce’s tendency to defend fossil fuel interests, is joined by leading national green groups the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters in its request that members of the Chamber pressure the group to stop lobbying against the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget bill. The letter will be sent to companies including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Salesforce, 3M, UPS and United Airlines.

Hundreds of young climate activists  rally in Lafayette Square on the north side of the White House to demand that U.S. President Joe Biden work to make the Green New Deal into law on June 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Hundreds of young climate activists in Lafayette Square on June 28 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Businesses, by not calling out what the Chamber is doing while they are members of it, are being complacent,” said Aaditi Lele, a freshman at Vanderbilt University, who is a student fellow with Change the Chamber. “A lot of these businesses have also put out statements about sustainability, and do a lot to appear sustainable and forward in terms of the environment, but in the background are taking these actions like running ads against the budget reconciliation and blocking these important climate policies.”

In August, the Chamber of Commerce threatened to score votes for the budget resolution, which includes a range of efforts to combat and adapt to climate change, as antibusiness votes in its annual scorecards. Now, as the budget moves through the reconciliation process, the Chamber is leading an array of business interests, including the Business Roundtable and PhRMA, which represents the pharmaceutical industry, in a coordinated campaign against the proposal.

Provisions that have drawn the ire of large corporations include proposed tax increases, fees for carbon pollution and prescription-drug-pricing reform.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
President Biden during a virtual meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 11. (Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“The businesses are a really important portion of the power map of this [climate] crisis,” said Lele. “By having those companies use their membership to pressure the Chamber, we cut out a pipeline of influence that is talking into politicians’ ears telling them to not vote for climate provisions.”

Change the Chamber is also releasing a report that details the Chamber of Commerce’s recent actions to obstruct climate change, such as “co-host[ing] impromptu press calls with the American Petroleum Institute to criticize the Biden administration’s pause on drilling on federal lands,” and filing amicus briefs on behalf of fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as oil pipelines that are tied up in court.

The Chamber of Commerce, reached for comment on the letter, referred to a past statement in which it argued that the budget bill has too many non-climate social welfare provisions. "The Biden administration is arguing that the massive $3.5 trillion tax and spend budget reconciliation bill is a climate bill. It’s not," the group wrote on Monday. "The reconciliation bill is an 'everything but the kitchen sink' bill consisting of a wish list of a big government policies that would forever alter the American economy."

This story was updated Wednesday with comment from the Chamber of Commerce.


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