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Sizing up Joe Manchin's energy committee rise

Senator Joe Manchin
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Senate Democrats made it official yesterday, elevating West Virginia's Joe Manchin to ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Why it matters: The decision came over the opposition of some progressive groups, who are upset with Manchin's support for fossil fuel development and political contributions from coal and oil companies.

What they're saying: Groups in the "keep-it-in-the-ground wing" of the environmental movement bashed the move.

"Senator Schumer has failed in finding a Ranking Member for this committee that truly understands that the climate crisis requires us to take on the fossil fuel industry, not cater to its demands."
— David Turnbull, spokesman, Oil Change USA

The other side: Manchin says ...

"I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common sense solutions for long-term comprehensive energy policy that incorporates an all-of-the-above strategy and ensures our state and our nation are leaders in the energy future."

Our thought bubble: I'll return to a point I made recently: This is something of a tempest in a teapot. If Democrats are ever in a position to move a sweeping climate and energy bill, which would likely require controlling both chambers plus the White House, Manchin's role won't be decisive either way.

  • Other committees would craft large parts of this hypothetical bill.
  • Energy provisions Manchin opposed could be added on the floor.

Of note: And he might not even be chairman after the next election period. A more senior member who passed on chairing the committee could decide it's a better gig in the majority.