Joe Biden Prepares His First Veto, And Joe Manchin And Jon Tester Helped!
Joe Biden tools around in Jeep's electric Wrangler prototype, August 2022. White House photo

President Joe Biden will use his veto pen (it is a regular pen) for the first time today, after two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Jon Tester (Montana), joined Republicans in passing a bill to prohibit "woke investing" by pension fund managers. Biden pledged Monday that he'd veto the bill if it passed.

The bill was aimed at rolling back a Labor Department rule that, as Politico explains,

allows retirement plan managers to incorporate climate and social factors into investment decisions. Republicans have criticized the regulation — which itself reversed a Trump-era rule discouraging environmentally and socially focused investing — as a threat to retirement savers because it would allow political forces to take precedence over returns.

We have to say we like what amounts to a quadruple negative here: Biden's about to veto a rollback of a reversal of a ban.

The Republican-controlled House passed the bill on Tuesday, with a single Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, joining all the Republicans. Then Wednesday, Manchin and Tester joined Senate Rs to pass the bill in a 50-46 vote. But wait! you astute Wonkette readers are thinking right now, That is a simple majority! What gives? Nothing passes by a majority in the Senate these days!

And for the most part, you'd be right, but this bill was introduced under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that allows Congress to wipe out recently passed rules put in place by executive branch agencies. And the CRA specifically allows the Senate to negate agency rules with a simple majority, evading the filibuster.

As you may recall, that's the same law Republicans under Donald Trump used to wipe out a lot of environmental rules that had gone into effect under Barack Obama. And wouldn't you know it, that's what the bill Biden's vetoing is about too, even if it's not immediately obvious.

The vote was a big priority for Republicans, who insist they're at war with "woke corporations" and all that corporate Marxism they hate so. They especially hate what's come to be called "environmental, social, and corporate governance," or ESG investing policies, as CNBC explainers:

ESG funds are designed to attract socially conscious investors with portfolios of companies that, for example, do not contribute to climate change or that practice good corporate governance.

Well we certainly can't have that, because that's how communists invest in financial markets. So the Trump administration banned retirement fund managers from considering anything but financial gain in investing.

The rightwing claim is that ESG investing might actually hurt retirees by reducing the potential growth of pension funds, so even if a city or university or other institution might prefer not to invest in Big Oil, bans on ESG would compel the fund managers to potentially include Exxon stock in the portfolio, take that libs.

Why yes, kids, much of the support for anti-ESG efforts has come from the fossil fuel industry itself, which understands all about money as free speech.

Money is free speech when corporations are making political contributions, or lobbying Republicans to ban ESG investing. But don't you dare use your money-speech to try to make the world a better place by choosing to invest in green companies instead of fossil fuels, because you have a fiduciary duty to bring in returns, and nothing else. Screw your free speech money, commies.

The Biden administration promised to veto the rollback because damn right money is speech, or, as the veto threat puts it,

The rule reflects what successful marketplace investors already know – there is an extensive body of evidence that environmental, social, and governance factors can have material impacts on certain markets, industries, and companies.

And by golly, if institutions want their investments to consider the long-term impact of their investments on the climate or on social justice, that's their business, not the federal government's.

Manchin and Tester, both from coal states, calculated that signing on to the GOP bill would be good optics going into their 2024 reelection campaigns — and since they both knew Biden would veto the thing, they could distance themselves from greenie liberals with no real political cost anyway.

Tester explained he was just looking out for Montana retirees, don't you see:

“At a time when working families are dealing with higher costs, from health care to housing, we need to be focused on ensuring Montanans’ retirement savings are on the strongest footing possible,” Tester said in a statement. “I’m opposing this Biden Administration rule because I believe it undermines retirement accounts for working Montanans and is wrong for my state.”

Politico also reports that when he was asked if party leadership had leaned on him to vote no on the bill,

Tester told reporters that they gave a presentation to the broader caucus Tuesday. But “it wasn’t like, pestering.”

You wouldn't want to pester Tester to make him resist the rollback of a reversal of the ban, is what we're saying.

Manchin's opposition to the Labor Department rule was far more vociferous, because Joe Manchin really loves presenting himself as an opponent to all things that even sound progressive:

Manchin took to the Senate floor to blast the Biden DOL rule as “just another example of how our administration prioritizes a liberal policy agenda over protecting and growing the retirement accounts of 150 million Americans.”

Politico here reminds readers again that the rule doesn't mandate ESG investing, but merely makes it an option — "free" market-like. Hell, the rule even allows retirement fund managers to invest in terrible rightwing stuff if they want. The National Asshole Lobby is perfectly free to invest in baby harp seal futures if it wants, or even in coal companies, which are going to go belly-up in coming decades anyway.

This will hardly be the last battle over ESG investing, but Biden's veto will at least put the kibosh on any federal bans for now. And the Right will keep on insisting it's all about protecting retirees, when in reality it's about protecting Big Oil.

[Politico / CNBC / Energy Monitor]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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