Manchin Casts Hope for Climate Bill to Move Forward

Manchin Casts Hope for Climate Bill to Move Forward

In the 50-50 Senate where Vice President Harris casts all deciding votes, Sen. Joe Manchin, coal-state Democrat and Chairman of the powerful Senate Energy Committee, looms large. Manchin has remained a hold-out on the legislation formerly known as "Build Back Better,” something Manchin declared "dead” last December while also saying he does not oppose the climate provisions. Now, he is signaling new hope to pass the President’s climate and clean energy provisions as part of an overall compromise.

The Hill: Manchin At Davos | Build Back Better CAN HAPPEN, But Cannot Abandon FOSSIL INDUSTRY, May 30, 2022.

Why This Matters

There’s new excitement after Manchin’s comments that a narrow path may still exist to pass a bill this year. There are likely fewer than 40 legislative days left in this Congress before a red wave in the mid-term elections is expected to cost Democrats the House of Representatives. A Tea Party House majority would doom any future climate bill, so Manchin’s latest comments could be an important harbinger of last-minute hope.

What Manchin Said

In Davos at the World Economic Forum, Joe Manchin signaled new optimism that something can happen this year on climate and energy, especially if it included short-term boosts to domestic production, something important to his state which produces natural gas even though it’s better known for coal.

"If we’re going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars investing in the new technology that’s going to be needed for the transition of a carbon-free or a carbon-less environment and an energy sector, then you have to be able to make sure that can intersect and take care of this,” said Manchin. "You can’t replace one until you have something to replace it with."

Senate Democrats are working to revive President Biden's legislative agenda with a current focus on energy, environment, climate, and tax reform rather than the social safety net. Talks are ongoing between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Manchin.

Sky News: Climate crisis | West Virginia divided on coal and gas, October 28, 2021.

Why Manchin’s Powerful

Because all 50 Senate Republicans strictly oppose any climate legislation this year, Manchin’s vote is the only game in town. That’s ironic given many of them -- like Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) -- represent states that Biden won, while Manchin is from a conservative hotbed that adores Trump. But Manchin may have his own more inside-the-beltway equities to protect; if Manchin wants to remain a Chairman in a Democratic Senate, he needs some form of the President’s top legislative priority to succeed. Despite his votes to confirm the President’s nominees, including federal judges and almost all of the President’s legislative priorities, Manchin has largely succeeded in remaining popular in one of the reddest Trump states in the country.

PBS: Manchin rejects Build Back Better bill over 'inexcusable' differences with White House, December 20, 2021.

VICE: Why Coal Country Elected Trump, February 28, 2020.