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Manchin in the Middle of Budget Plan Progression

July 20, 2021 by Reece Nations
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing. (Leigh Vogel/Pool via AP, File)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, met with his Democratic colleagues earlier last week to discuss the proposed budget deal legislation. Democrats are hoping to pass the budget plan using the Senate’s reconciliation process but they will need Manchin’s support in order to do so.

“I know they have the climate portion in here, and I’m concerned about that,” Manchin said to reporters after meeting with President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats. “Because if they’re eliminating fossils, and I’m finding out there’s a lot of language in places they’re eliminating fossils, which is very, very disturbing, because if you’re sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking that’s going to clean up the global climate, it won’t clean it up at all. If anything, it would be worse.”

Additionally, Manchin took part in a fundraiser hosted by oil industry donors on Friday after condemning provisions of the proposed $3.5 trillion budget deal targeting fossil fuels.

Although the fundraiser was not exclusive to conservative figures, it did feature individuals known to have financially contributed to the Republican Party of Texas, the Republican National Committee, and numerous GOP candidates including former President Donald Trump.

The host committee that welcomed Manchin included Richard Kinder, co-founder of Kinder Morgan Inc., Jeff Hildebrand, co-founder of Hilcorp Energy Company, and Vicki Hollub, president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum, according to The Texas Tribune. Guests attending the fundraiser in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston, Texas, were encouraged to donate to Manchin’s campaign for reelection in 2024 and his leadership political action committee.

Manchin’s objections to the budget proposal pertain mostly to its overall cost and provisions designed to encourage companies to transition to clean energy. Democrats are hoping to use the budget plan as a launching pad for Biden’s climate initiatives for an exclusively “clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050,” according to the plan championed by Biden on the campaign trail.

“We have a debt of $28.5 trillion right now,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We have indications of inflation that’s spiking, so a lot of things are of concern. What’s going to happen to the generation coming after us if we don’t have some kind of controls or some brakes on some different things? So, I’m just looking at everything in a holistic way. I know we have needs in our country and we have… obligations, but we also have financial responsibilities also.” 

Manchin’s relationship with Texas’ affluent oil and gas barons is not surprising, although the optics could be seen as concerning to the progressive sect of the Democratic Party. After all, Manchin’s state of West Virginia generates 99% of its electricity from coal and its utility companies account for two-thirds of business taxes paid in the state, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

By using the reconciliation process, Democrats could use a series of parliamentary maneuvers to pass the budget plan with a simple majority of 51 votes – just as they did in March to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Vice President Kamala Harris represents the crucial tie-breaking vote on the bill’s passage if Manchin is on board with the proposal.

“On Democrats’ watch, inflation has turned a 3.6% annual pay raise for American workers into a nearly 2% pay cut,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in remarks delivered from the Senate floor. “And yet, in a spectacle that could only occur in Washington D.C., Democrats picked the very same week to announce they want to tax, borrow, and spend yet another $4 trillion in the coming weeks. Yet another budget-busting socialist package, twice as big as the last one.”

As pressure on Manchin mounts from both sides of the aisle, he still represents the crucial centrist swing-vote needed by Senate Democrats to advance much of Biden’s agenda. Although he has publicized his concerns, Manchin appears poised to take part in negotiations on the bill, telling reporters he “wants it to proceed.”

“The plan we put together, which is fully paid for, will make the investments in American families,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in remarks during a press conference after the Senate Budget Committee came to an agreement on the resolution. “[The resolution] will take on… the existential threat of climate change, in a way that will meet the needs, leading the world on this critical issue.”

Warren’s remarks continued, “I make no illusions how challenging this is going to be and I want to thank all of the members in both parties who are working on the bipartisan infrastructure plan. We have ways to go on that, but huge progress has been made. I have been in this job for now, about 12 years. I can’t think of a more meaningful effort than what we’re taking on, than what we’re doing right now, probably more meaningful than anything I have done in my public service record.”

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