President Biden on Monday issued his first veto since taking office, rejecting a bill that would have reversed a Labor Department rule on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.
“I just vetoed my first bill,” Biden said in a tweet announcing the move.
“This bill would risk your retirement savings by making it illegal to consider risk factors MAGA House Republicans don’t like. Your plan manager should be able to protect your hard-earned savings — whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene likes it or not,” he added, referring to the Republican congresswoman from Georgia.
The Biden administration had previously issued a rule stating that money managers can weigh climate change and other ESG factors when they make decisions for retirement investments on behalf of clients. It replaced a rule from the era of former President Trump that the Biden administration said discouraged consideration of ESG factors “even in cases where it is in the financial interest of plans to take such considerations into account.”
The GOP-controlled House had passed the bill to undo the Biden rule, and the Senate voted Wednesday to send the bill to Biden’s desk in a 50-46 vote.
Two Senate Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) joined Republicans in opposing the Biden administration policy, saying they felt it was a case of government overreach that would impose a policy agenda on Americans’ retirement accounts.
The White House had previously said Biden would veto the legislation if it passed Congress. In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House noted the rule was not a mandate, but is intended to ensure retirement plan managers recognize that factors related to ESG can be relevant in analyzing investment decisions.
“The President vetoed the bill because it jeopardizes the hard-earned life savings of cops, firefighters, teachers, and other workers – all in service of an extreme, MAGA Republican ideology.” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson said in a statement.
Congress is unlikely to be able to override Biden’s veto, as it would require the support of two-thirds of both chambers.
The legislation and Biden’s subsequent veto is part of a larger debate over ESG investing. Opposition to the practice has become a point of emphasis for many conservatives, who view it as part of a broader “woke” agenda among Democrats that infringes on Americans’ rights to make their own decisions.
“This veto by President Biden goes directly against the interests of the American people and once again creates an illegitimate loophole for companies like BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard to exploit to put politics over profits with American pension dollars,” said Will Hild, executive director of Consumers’ Research, a group that has led opposition ESG policies.
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“It is disappointing to see this administration use hardworking Americans’ retirements to further progressive politics rather than ensure Americans are financially secure,” Hild said.
Supporters of ESG investment say that following these principles allows people to make money, have a positive impact on the world around them and avoid some financial risks caused by climate change.
Banks, investment firms and money managers also say consumer demand for ESG investment offerings grew steadily over the past few years.
“Today, President Biden used his first veto to reject a bipartisan majority consensus in the House and Senate that Americans’ retirement savings should be invested to get the best return, not to support a political agenda,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), a lead author on the bill that was vetoed, said in a statement, accusing Biden of “doubling down on prioritizing a progressive agenda over Americans’ retirements and the will of Congress.”