Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has told the White House he firmly opposes a clean electricity program that is a major part of President Biden’s climate agenda, suggesting it is likely to be removed from a massive spending bill before Congress, The New York Times reported Friday, citing congressional staffers and lobbyists. The $150 billion program would speed up the replacement of coal- and gas-fired power generation with wind, solar, and nuclear energy. West Virginia produces both coal and natural gas, and Manchin still earns money from a coal brokerage he founded.
Democrats can pass the budget legislation without Republican votes using a process known as budget reconciliation, but with the Senate split 50-50, they can’t afford to lose a single vote from their own caucus. That has forced White House staffers to write a new version of the legislation deleting the clean energy program and trying to come up with replacement policies to reduce emissions, the Times reports.
Losing the Clean Electricity Performance Program poses a couple of problems for Biden, because it makes it much harder to achieve his goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, leaves him heading to Glasgow for a U.N. climate summit with less leverage, and diminishes Democratic enthusiasm for the reconciliation bill, Politico notes. Environmentalists were predictably unhappy with Manchin’s veto.
And adding to the discord, Manchin and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took their disagreements over the reconciliation package to a new public high on Friday night. Sanders’ decision to name-check Manchin in an op-ed in his hometown newspaper, the Charleston Mail-Gazette, prompted a sharp response. “This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Manchin wrote. “Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that.”
“Sanders’ office ran a draft by Manchin’s after the op-ed was submitted to the paper but before it published” Politico reports. But “Manchin and Sanders have plenty of history: Sanders won West Virginia’s Democratic primary in 2016, defeating Manchin-backed Hillary Clinton in the state. And a year later Sanders’ wife appeared alongside Manchin’s primary opponent in his 2018 reelection race.” In his op-ed, Sanders made the case that Manchin was blocking policies popular in West Virginia.