Updated Jul 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

White House holds out hope for Manchin climate deal

Manchin and Biden
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and President Biden. Photos: Kevin Dietsch; Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

The White House and some Senate Democrats aren't giving up on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) just yet — and are leaving the door open to pursuing climate legislation in a potential second reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The keep-hope-alive approach means President Biden can't antagonize Manchin by taking immediate executive actions on issues that matter deeply to the moderate West Virginia senator, like pipeline permitting.

The latest: The White House decided not to declare a "national climate emergency" this week that would have opened up federal resources to address global warming, AP first reported. However, Biden is expected to announce some executive actions aimed at addressing the issue.

State of play: Democratic leaders still plan to move quickly on legislation that lowers the cost of prescription drugs and provides subsidies for the Affordable Care Act — and get it to Biden in early August before Congress leaves for recess.

  • But if June's 9.1% inflation rate cools off enough to keep Manchin interested, they could take a final shot at the climate provisions he forced them to abandon this month.
  • "We're open to it, whatever the vehicle may be," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Axios. "There is a second possibility."
  • "I underline possibility because this is quite a task to put together — a second reconciliation bill passing the Senate parliamentarian's review and [getting] it on the floor," he said.

Between the lines: No one knows what Manchin's magic inflation number is for him to consider passing some $300 billion for renewable energy incentives. The next Consumer Price Index (CPI) release is on Aug. 10.

Driving the news: Over the weekend, Democrats were depressed and demoralized that Manchin appeared to slam the door on the climate provisions after spending the year winnowing down the core of Biden's ambitious Build Back Better agenda.

  • Some outside climate advisers urged Biden to declare a climate emergency and achieve administratively what he couldn't accomplish legislatively. If executive action was the only route, there was no need to keep Manchin happy or be sensitive to his pet priorities, some Democrats argued.
  • But then Democrats started to process what Manchin actually said on Hoppy Kercheval's West Virginia radio show last week. They didn't hear a final "no."
  • "We have to take Sen. Manchin at his word. He says it's not off the table," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told NBC News on Monday.

What they're saying: Manchin himself seemed willing to address climate policy this summer. "Let's see what the Congress does. The Congress needs to act," he told ABC's Allison Pecorin on Tuesday when asked whether he supports Biden declaring a national climate emergency.

  • "We are going to keep fighting on climate," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at his weekly press conference. "We're going to look at everything we can do. ... There's always a second reconciliation bill available to us."
  • "We're much closer to a climate deal than people realize. Let's not throw in the towel just yet. Fighting climate change is more important than any August recess," Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) tweeted Tuesday.

Yes, but: Democrats recognize trying to ram through another reconciliation bill this Congress is a daunting task.

  • Would they take another deal with Manchin? Yes. But if they succeed in landing prescription drug prices and ACA subsidies in one reconciliation bill, that would potentially close out the fiscal year 2022 budget resolution.
  • That could mean needing to pass a FY2023 budget resolution in order to do a climate reconciliation bill, requiring another two vote-a-ramas on amendments prior to the midterms, or in the lame duck session.

For the record: "Because Congress has not acted against the national security and economic threat of climate change, the President will take action that builds on the historic steps he’s taken since being sworn in," White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told Axios.

  • "He's going to continue to do so to cut energy costs, keep the American people safe and keep our economy strong."

The bottom line: Democrats are eager to book a win now on prescription drugs, while Manchin is still in the mood to deal — and get a bill to Biden's desk before the August recess. Anything else is considered gravy.

Go deeper