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Trump energy regulation nominee confirmed despite Manchin opposition

Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Trump's choice for an open Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seat has been confirmed by a 50-49 margin — despite a late twist that arrives at an interesting moment in energy politics.

Driving the news: West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin unexpectedly opposed Bernard McNamee in a procedural vote yesterday, citing his early 2017 comments recently unearthed by the publication Utility Dive.

"After viewing video footage, which I had not previously seen, where Bernard McNamee outright denies the impact that humans are having on our climate, I can no longer support his nomination to be a FERC commissioner."
— Joe Manchin, in statement

Why it matters: The change of heart arrives as some progressive activists are pressing Democratic leaders to block Manchin from becoming the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

  • They say Manchin is too close to the fossil fuel industry, citing his acceptance of campaign contributions.

The big question: Whether yesterday's surprise move will affect the internal Democratic caucus politics around Manchin's potential ascension on the committee.

  • Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has declined comment on calls to block him.

Yes, but: Don't look for activists to end their campaign against Manchin.

  • "A last minute flip on McNamee doesn’t erase a career of putting polluters ahead of people. Manchin has the worst climate record of any Democratic Senator," 350.org's Jamie Henn tells Axios.
  • The Sunrise Movement said they still oppose his rise on the panel.

Go deeper: Climate politics moves up the Democrats' priority list