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Does Senator Whitehouse want President Biden to run again?

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Whitehouse talks about what the Inflation Reduction Act will do to combat climate change and what he learned about the FBI investigation of Justice Kavanaugh

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, speaks to Boston Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick during the Rhode Island Report podcast.Carlos Muñoz/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A recent Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found 68.8 percent of likely general election voters in Rhode Island do not think President Joe Biden should run for a second term in 2024.

So what would US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse say if those pollsters called him?

“I’m going to duck that question, if you don’t mind,” Whitehouse said on the Rhode Island Report podcast. “We don’t have any candidates yet for 2024, and I’m not picking amongst them.”

The Democratic senator from Rhode Island noted that Biden is not on the ballot in 2022, so he doesn’t need to make a decision about the next Democratic presidential candidate until 2024.

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“But I do think that from now through November is a really important period for the Biden administration to set the mark for how they’re going to campaign for 2024 and to establish the narrative that this is a guy who’s fighting for you and this is a guy who gets things done,” he said.

Whitehouse, who delivered 279 speeches on the Senate floor about climate change, said the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act will make a real difference in combating climate change.

“There’s a lot left to be done, but I’m excited about it because it’s the first time since I’ve been in the Senate that we’ve had a real win on climate,” he said. “It has been nonstop frustration, and this time we’ve got a bill that will actually begin to reduce emissions in a measurable way. We’re a long way from where we need to be, but getting a win is good.”

Whitehouse, who helped to shape major components of the legislation, said the act contains many more incentives than penalties — “more carrot than stick.”

For instance, he said, it includes “a whole battery of supports for homeowners to fix up their houses with new, more efficient appliances and to add rooftop solar out of their houses. So you’ll see a lot of families that are able to invest in much more efficient homes and, of course, ideally with an (electric vehicle) that we’ve helped finance in the driveway, as well.”

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But Whitehouse said he would like to see more “stick” in the future.

“They have a very good model in a case that the Department of Justice won in a complete slaughter of a victory over the tobacco industry, when the tobacco industry was lying about the dangers of its product,” he said. “They got a court order from the United States District Court in Washington saying, ‘You shall lie no more,’ and that completely broke the back of the tobacco industry.”

A similar lawsuit could be brought against the fossil fuel industry “for the way in which they have lied for decades about the danger of their product,” he said. “I think would be a very powerful stick, and I think they’d win. It would make a big difference in turning off the spigot of lies coming out of the fossil fuel industry.”

Whitehouse also reacted to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s statement that the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago shows the Department of Justice “has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.”

“I think the reaction to that raid by the Republican Party shows that it has lost its collective mind,” he said. “You have the FBI working with the archivist to get documents that Trump conceded he had when the negotiations didn’t work out. They backstop them with a subpoena. Then apparently they had an insider say, ‘Guys, they’re lying to you, they still have more records.’ ”

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A federal judge signed off on the warrant after FBI agents testified under oath about the need to go to Mar-a-Lago, and they they found the documents, Whitehouse said. “The lesson here is: Don’t lie to the FBI when you’re involved in an investigation or they will raise the temperature and go to more intrusive measures to get the information that they need,” he said.

Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also talked about what he learned when he recently questioned FBI Director Christopher A. Wray about the agency’s investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations that emerged from US Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.



Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.