Horrific tornadoes recast climate debate: The Note

Biden said climate change "obviously" played a part in the deadly tornadoes.

December 13, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

In the immediate aftermath of the devastation and death that occurred in Kentucky due to the tornadoes over the weekend, President Joe Biden didn't hesitate to go there. The question now, is whether he can bring a long-stalled debate over climate policy along with him.

Asked about whether climate change played a role in the unusually powerful December tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky, Biden said he thought it "obviously" had an impact in terms of intensity. His administration is already preparing new strategies to help communities handle what the FEMA director said Sunday will be "our new normal."

PHOTO: The aftermath of a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Ky., Dec. 12, 2021.
The aftermath of a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Ky., Dec. 12, 2021.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

The tragedies struck at a critical moment for what would be the biggest ever U.S. investment in addressing climate change. The giant "Build Back Better" bill -- now awaiting action in the Senate -- includes $555 billion to cut fossil fuel emissions and help localities build in resilience to the impacts of more severe weather events.

That bill got a double dose of rough news late last week, with a damaging Congressional Budget Office cost estimate and new inflation numbers. The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll found Biden's handling of climate change at 51% disapproval, with 46% approval -- not good, though actually better than his numbers on crime, gun violence or the economy.

Realistically, despite assurances from Democratic leaders, Build Back Better looks likely to be shelved until early next year. The critical vote, of course, is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. – who has cited concerns over inflation as well as the impact climate initiatives would have on his state.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is threatening to invoke the same strategy Texas used in its near total abortion ban to put forth gun reform legislation.

PHOTO: In this April 12, 2021, file photo, AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at a gun store in Oceanside, Calif.
In this April 12, 2021, file photo, AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at a gun store in Oceanside, Calif.
Bing Guan/Reuters, FILE

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to allow for SB8, or the Texas Heartbeat Act to remain in effect, Newsom is calling for private citizens to be deputized to enforce a ban on assault weapons and untraceable ghost gun kits.

"If states can shield their laws from review by federal courts, then CA will use that authority to help protect lives," said Newsom in a statement. "We will work to create the ability for private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in CA."

While there has been no formal bill or proposal, it conjures what many feared, that Texas lawmakers were setting a dangerous precedent in permitting private citizens to police one another.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

New York City's recent move to become the nation's largest municipality to grant noncitizens the right to vote in local elections is already getting some pushback -- including from the city's outgoing mayor. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Mayor Bill DeBlasio expressed concerns about the legality of the law, which passed on Thursday.

"I have mixed feelings. I've been very open about it on this law, and I think there are big legal questions. But I also respect the city council. They made a decision," DeBlasio said. His comments appeared to refer to his having questioned whether the New York City Council has the legal authority to give noncitizens voting rights.

PHOTO: In this Nov. 2, 2021, file photo, people visit a voting site at a YMCA on Election Day in New York.
In this Nov. 2, 2021, file photo, people visit a voting site at a YMCA on Election Day in New York.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE

The new law could increase the city's voter rolls by nearly 1 million people, which some critics say would shift the voting power away from citizens. Although noncitizens would still be barred from voting in federal elections, the legislation is also getting political criticism that could echo on a national scale -- especially given its contrast to laws in other areas of the country where Republican-backed bills tightened ballot access.

In a recent statement, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called it "the product of a radical, power-hungry Democrat Party that will stop at nothing to undermine election integrity."


According to a recent ABC/Ipsos poll, President Joe Biden is facing significant public skepticism, with his job approval rating behind across a variety of important problems, including new lows for his management of crime, gun violence and economic recovery.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast.

Monday morning's episode starts with Kentucky tornado survivor, Jennifer Palmer, who just returned to see her home for the first time today. Following that, ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis and ABC News meteorologist Rob Marciano talk the death and destruction the storm left in its wake, and ponder whether tornado patterns could be changing. We then go to University of Michigan Law Professor Leah Litman for an explanation of The Supreme Court's decision last Friday to let Texas' abortion ban to stay in place and how the action has prompted liberal governors to suggest laws that could do the same thing for guns. We close with a tribute to Vicente Fernandez, the legendary Mexican entertainer. http://apple.co/2HPocULhttp://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • At 11 a.m. President Joe Biden receives a briefing from Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall on the federal response to the tornadoes and extreme weather that impacted multiple states Friday night.
  • Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at 2 p.m.
  • At 1 p.m., Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts an honor cordon at the Pentagon with the Lithuanian Minister of National Defense.
  • The House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold a hearing at 7 p.m. on a report recommending that the House of Representatives cite Mark Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress.
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