Mar 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Progressives worry Manchin’s climate talk is hot air

Progressives don’t like what they hear when they listen to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) talk about a potential climate and deficit-reduction bill.

Why it matters: With the holdout senator hinting at supporting some climate provisions as part of a slimmed-down Build Back Better legislation, both House and Senate progressives worry any final bill will be heavier on energy independence favored by Big Oil — and lighter on the carbon reduction they seek.

  • In a 50-50 Senate — and a Democratic majority with just half a dozen votes to spare in the House — progressive opposition to a smaller reconciliation package could kill any potential deal.

What they're saying: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Manchin’s proposal sounds like a “fossil-fuel bill.”

  • “When he says he wants to act on climate, I think it's quite understandable that people would meet that with a great deal of disbelief,” she told Axios.
  • “I know where Joe starts on some of these things,’ said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “It’s not where I start.”
  • “At the end of the day, we need to measure it against what it proves out in emissions reductions,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said. “And those discussions are ongoing.”

The big picture: Progressives still feel burned Manchin — and, to a lesser extent, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — extracted their vote for the $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package without voting for Biden’s sweeping climate and social-spending plans.

  • Manchin declared those negotiations dead in December. Lately, he's been signaling he's open to a smaller bill, including an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy security.
  • That bill would likely include most of the $550 billion in climate spending that was included in the House-passed bill, as well as prescription drug reform and deficit reduction.

Driving the news: Manchin told reporters on Thursday the focus should be on deficit reduction, fighting inflation and tax reform.

  • “I'm talking about fixing, fixing the tax code. That's the one thing we all agreed was wrong," he said.
  • Earlier in the week, he established clear parameters for any potential climate and energy bill.
  • "I will not vote to put the United States of America in a position … to basically end up like Europe," the senator told a West Virginia radio show, according to the Free Beacon.
  • "Let's basically invest in renewables, do what we need to do there, and in new technology, but also invest in infrastructure to be secure here," he said.

Go deeper: While progressives question his intent, some of Manchin’s other colleagues in the Senate are convinced he’s supportive of $550 billion in energy subsidies in the House-passed climate and social spending bill.

  • “I think there's going to be so much good stuff in there, that we're going to be very pleased,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told Axios.
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