Joe Manchin Offers Democrats Once Last Chance To Kick Lucy’s Football
It’s been four months since Joe Manchin plunged a dagger into the heart of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, announcing to a gleeful Fox News audience that he couldn’t support Build Back Better. Now, he claims he’s willing to back some sort of energy and climate package before the midterms. If that seems sus, it’s because there’s a catch: He doesn’t want to use the reconciliation process, which would require all 50 Democrats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. No, he wants to go bipartisan or stay home.
“If I can find something bipartisan, we don’t need reconciliation,” Manchin, of West Virginia, said in an interview on Monday.
A bipartisan energy package, like the infrastructure bill passed last year, could undercut the broader Democratic agenda but give President Joe Biden an election-year victory on an issue voters care about.
Bloomberg uses the term “bipartisan energy package,” as if it’s a concept that might actually exist, like “literate Lauren Boebert.”
Manchin has reportedly met with senators from both parties to, as his spokesperson quaintly describes, “gauge bipartisan interest in a path forward that addresses our nation’s climate and energy security needs head on.” Last month, Manchin helped Republicans tank Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to the Federal Reserve because she advocates measures to mitigate climate change, including transitioning to clean energy. That was Manchin’s bipartisanship in action.
He’s previously talked about finding 10 unicorn Republicans who'd support voting rights legislation, but he failed like a failure who's not actually trying. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema later stood by while Republicans suffocated democracy with a pillow they’d helped fluff.
Now, midterms are a little more than six months away. Republicans see blood in the water. Not a single one is going to hand Mark Kelly, Maggie Hassan, Raphael Warnock, and Catherine Cortez Masto a legislative lifeline to keep their seats. Manchin literally knows how nothing works. He’s either a troll or the dumbest man alive, possibly both.
After his bipartisan circle jerk meeting, Manchin told reporters that there’s possible “common ground” over reforming the federal oil and gas leasing process. The Biden administration wants oil companies to pay penalties on unused drilling leases. This is intended to promote more pumping, pumping, pumping. Yay.
Manchin said: "You’re going to have to have a leasing program that works, O.K., and making sure that leases are fair, and people are not sitting on leases. We need to look at all that. We haven’t done that.” Sure. He suggests Congress encourage domestic production of energy right now and consider incentives for climate-related goals in the longer term. Just kick that can down the road.
Of course, something is always better than nothing, unless you’re at Taco Bell: The bipartisan approach could resuscitate $550 billion in climate and energy spending in the Build Back Better Act.
In addition to reform on permitting, a potential package could include revisions to federal land policy, aid for domestic pipelines, efforts to bolster production of both liquefied natural gas at home and abroad and critical minerals, a person familiar with the matter said. It’s possible the changes could be paired with hundreds of billions of dollars in new and expanded tax credits for wind and solar power, nuclear plants, biofuels and advanced energy manufacturing sought by Democrats and the White House and included in earlier iterations of the Build Back Better spending bill, the person said.
But more likely, the Senate will do nothing at all. You can’t find 10 Republicans who even believe in democracy. Only three voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. That’s the extent of bipartisanship in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Manchin has pressed the Biden administration on his own energy priorities, such as increasing oil-and-gas production on federal and private lands and constructing new natural gas pipelines. There’s still time to line his pockets while Democrats control the Senate.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."