Haunted by their failure to pass a climate bill in 2009, some Democrats are vowing “no climate, no deal.”

Democrats tried to pass a big climate bill the last time they controlled the White House and Congress. It failed in a Senate with a bigger Democratic majority than the one they currently have.

More than 10 years after that bill — commonly known by the names of its co-authors (then-Rep. Henry Waxman and then-Rep. and now Sen. Ed Markey) — died without getting a vote in the US Senate, the United States is seeing more severe impacts of climate change. In recent days, an intense “heat dome” has scorched the West, one of many heat waves scientists say climate change is making worse. A group of Democratic senators fears that the coming months may present their last, best hope to actually do something about it.

“The time to do something was 20 years ago,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) told me recently. “The second-best time to do something is now.”

Democrats are now pinning their climate hopes on President Joe Biden’s initial $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which has major investments in clean energy, electric vehicles, and climate resilience. But much like 2010, nothing is certain. As the White House negotiates with a bipartisan group of senators on a slimmed-down infrastructure bill, progressive senators are worried that climate provisions of the bill will be minimized or stripped out. They’re sounding the alarm about the nation’s future if Congress — yet again — fails to pass major climate legislation.

“I’m terrified of what happens if we don’t act,” Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) said. Heinrich, his Senate colleague in New Mexico, added, “My state is burning up.”

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