On Friday, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III left open the prospect of Congress passing significant climate legislation this year, denying reports he had abandoned the effort by pulling out of talks with leaders.
The reports have brought a flood of criticism to Manchin from other members of Congress, who say the very survival of the planet is at stake.
Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, is attracting unusual national attention for his remarks as he is at the center of his party’s negotiations on a major spending bill and represents a crucial vote in the equally divided Senate.
On a West Virginia radio station talk show on Friday, Manchin said he told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that after the June consumer price index increased by 9.1%, he wanted to wait to see July inflation figures and Federal Reserve interest rates before deciding which clean energy programs and fiscal changes he might support.
“Let’s wait for this to come out to know that we’re on a path that won’t be incendiary to add more to inflation,” Manchin told Schumer, a New York Democrat.
“Inflation absolutely kills many, many people… Can’t we wait to make sure we don’t do anything to add to that?”
Schumer “took that as ‘no,’ I guess, and pulled this big thing out last night,” Manchin told Hoppy Kercheval, the host of Metronews Talkline radio show in West Virginia.
The New York Democrat or someone close to him then told the Washington Post that the talks were dead, Manchin suggested.
The Post published a story On Thursday night, Manchin told Democratic leaders he would not support new climate programs or raise taxes on the wealthy.
Manchin appeared surprised by the Washington Post report, saying during a 15-minute interview with Kercheval that Schumer’s team knew where the West Virginian stood and that the sides had made major progress over the past few months.
He appeared to view the leak as a bargaining ploy, dismissing the conclusion that talks were over or even seriously delayed.
“I don’t stop,” he said. “It’s rhetoric. I’ve been through this all my life, politically. I’ve never seen it at this level…thinking they’re going to put all this pressure on me. I’m where I’ve been. I wouldn’t put that on my staff, I wouldn’t put that on myself if I wasn’t sincere.
Manchin said Schumer wants agreement by the end of July on a budget reconciliation bill — a legislative tool that would allow Senate Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority vote, which they would win with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie. Inflation figures for July will not be released until August, when the Senate is suspended for a month.
Manchin also set Sept. 30 as the deadline for reaching agreement on a spending bill, making the chamber’s four-week session in September a crucial time.
This tight deadline was not an obstacle, he said on Friday.
“We could come back on September 1 and pass this legislation,” he said. “If it’s a good bill.”
Manchin said he thought he was “close” to a deal with Schumer.
“I thought we were,” he said. “I thought we were definitely going in the right direction.”
Energy Policy Differences
Manchin, who has financial ties to his state’s coal industry, said he supports spending on clean energy programs but has disagreements with fellow Democrats who he says want to eliminate the production of oil, gas and coal.
It could happen in 20 years, but wouldn’t be possible in the next decade, Manchin said.
Instead, the United States should work to make fossil fuel production cleaner and develop non-fossil fuel sources, including hydrogen and nuclear, he said.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, carbon emissions from fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming.
The international group has called for significant reductions in fossil fuel emissions to limit the worst effects of climate change. President Joe Biden has joined international efforts to reduce carbon emissions, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
Manchin’s objections overruled that bill in December.
Manchin’s “whims” criticized
Climate advocates inside and outside Congress slammed Manchin on Friday, reacting to apparent news that he had again blocked even a slimmed down climate bill.
“Like most Americans right now, I am sickened that one man’s changing whims could bring the very near future of our country, our planet, our health and our safety to the brink,” he said. said Raúl M. Grijalva, chairman of the US House Natural Resources Committee. of Arizona said in a statement. “I think it’s short-sighted at best, reckless endangerment at worst.”
Grijalva also blamed Republicans for the standoff.
“It is infuriating and nothing short of tragic that Senator Manchin is backing away, yet again, from taking essential action on climate and clean energy,” Minnesota Democratic Senator Tina Smith said in a statement.
“The world is literally burning as he joins every Republican in stopping strong action to reduce emissions and accelerate the transition to clean energy for the survival of our planet.”
“We have an opportunity to address the climate crisis right now,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Manchin. wrote on Twitter.
“Senator Manchin’s refusal to act is infuriating,” Heinrich added. “It makes me wonder why he is president of ENR.”
“This failure falls squarely on Joe Manchin and the Republicans, as do the barren croplands, flooded homes and incinerated communities that will result from this inaction,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of environmental group NRDC Action Fund. . “One of these senators needs to reconsider.”
Representatives for Schumer, who has been absent from the Senate with COVID-19, did not respond to a message seeking comment on Friday.