Six of the most vulnerable first-term congressional Republicans represent districts that are benefitting from new renewable energy facilities made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, one of President Biden’s most significant legislative achievements to date.
While Reps. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), Juan Duarte (R-CA), John James (R-MI), Julia Letlow (R-LA), Marcus Molinaro (R-NY), and Brandon Williams (R-NY) were not yet in office when Congress passed the IRA last August, their unsuccessful vote to repeal it in April as part of the House GOP’s draconian debt ceiling bill has created a 2024 campaign issue for Democrats.
Only four Republican representatives — none of whom are the most vulnerable — opposed this year’s attempt at repeal. That puts all Republicans in districts with IRA-related renewable energy facilities on the defensive in terms of justifying their vote to kill the bill.
According to the nonpartisan group Climate Power, which tracks renewable energy projects by congressional district, 272 new clean energy projects have been “announced or advanced” in the first year since the IRA was enacted, generating “170,606 new jobs in 44 states” and “totaling $278 billion in new investments.”
More than 80% of the investments associated with IRA financial incentives are in Republican-held districts, as are the majority of new jobs — 96,216 in 152 new facilities — announced so far. Workers will help produce semiconductors, wind turbines, solar panels, EVs, batteries, and storage, among other clean energy needs.
New jobs are also being created in districts represented by each of the six vulnerable GOP freshmen. Two projects are generating 245 jobs in Rep. Ciscomani’s district in Arizona, with 855 jobs coming to Rep. Duarte’s district in California. In Missouri, 155 jobs are being created in Rep. James’ district, and in Louisiana, Rep. Letlow’s district is gaining 222. New York Reps. Molinaro and Williams are seeing gains of 500 and 9,000 jobs, respectively.
The single largest investment, under the companion Chips and Space Act, is for Micron’s new $100-billion semiconductor plant in central New York state — in Rep. Williams’ district. Only one Republican voted for this bill.
None of these congressional freshmen responded to inquiries from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) about whether the renewable energy facilities being built in their districts impacts their position on the IRA.
Democrats are expected to use GOP opposition to renewable energy and decarbonization as a major issue in races where Biden ran well in their districts. The outcome of toss-up races in swing states will likely determine which party controls the House after next year’s congressional elections.
In assessing the most competitive races in 2024, The Cook Political Report considers 19 Republican-held districts across the country as either toss-ups or leaning (but not necessarily “likely”) Republican based on criteria such as a thin margin of victory for a first-term representative and whether Biden carried the district in 2020.
In addition to the vulnerable freshmen, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) is facing a highly competitive race for a third term. Despite her recent vote to repeal the IRA, her district is benefitting from the creation of 700 new jobs in conjunction with the construction of a solar and battery storage plant.
Best known for her provocative rhetoric, pro-gun advocacy, and support for the conspiracy group QAnon, Boebert narrowly won her district in 2022 — by 500 votes — making her a target for Democrats in 2024.
Once the congressional session resumes next month, House GOP members will keep pushing for H.R. 812 and other legislation to repeal and rescind funding for the IRA. However, there is evidence that the IRA-driven construction in their district may change some congressmen’s behavior – no cosponsors of H.R. 812 are from the toss-up districts or those that lean Republican districts with such facilities.
Additionally, Rep. Molinaro broke with his party and the other five vulnerable freshmen mentioned here to oppose House Joint Resolution 39, which would have made solar companies pay duties on parts already imported for their solar plants. Looking ahead to 2024, he seems to see the wisdom of welcoming the influx of clean energy jobs the IRA has helped bring to his district.
Hayden Coss contributed research for this article.