But lawmakers would need to get working “very quickly” to move a new version of the legislation, said Bobby Andres, a senior policy adviser to the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the clean energy tax provisions. “We still don’t have a new agreement to move forward,” he said, adding, “Congress could certainly fail to get this done. Failure is, unfortunately, a possibility.”
Meanwhile, White House aides are worried that regulations to force polluting industries to cut emissions could be severely limited by the Supreme Court. The Environmental Protection Agency is drafting two regulations to reduce emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks. If those rules are stringent and enacted soon, analysts say, they could cut the nation’s greenhouse pollution and accelerate its transition to electric vehicles and wind and solar power.
But the E.P.A. is awaiting a Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, a legal challenge brought by 18 Republican attorneys general. Backed by some of the nation’s largest coal companies, the attorneys general want the justices to sharply limit, if not eliminate, the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from power plants.
After February’s oral arguments, legal experts said they believed that the majority of the justices, six of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, including three Trump appointees, would be sympathetic to the plaintiffs. “This is a serious threat to regulations,” said Richard Revesz, who teaches environmental law at New York University and filed a legal brief in the case in support of the administration.
The agency could still make an impact with another rule, which is not expected to be completed until 2023, designed to force auto companies to rapidly increase sales of zero-emission electric vehicles.
Mr. Biden’s allies remain hopeful. Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said that the president had approached him at a Democratic retreat in Philadelphia a few weeks ago to quietly assure him that climate remained a priority. “He made it very clear to me that he is still committed to having a strong climate package become law this year,” Senator Markey said.
Mr. Podesta said that if that’s true, the president needs to keep talking about it: “At the end of the day he’s going to have to make the case to the American people.”
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.