Joe Manchin, Unstoppable Robot Asshole
Even though it's already looking like the Build Back Better reconciliation bill will be put on hold until after the new year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-Coal and Oil Industry) still keeps finding new things to oppose in it. As the Washington Post reports, Manchin has suddenly discovered that he really opposes one of the bill's climate measures, a plan to ban new offshore oil drilling off the nation's coasts. The Senate removed that measure from its draft of the bill in hopes of moving the package forward.
Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, is also reportedly "surprised" at another part of the bill which would prohibit oil and gas exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which has only been a Democratic Party goal for decades. We guess he's just easily surprised. The Post says Manchin hasn't yet said whether he would demand that be stripped from the bill too. So far, it's still in the Senate draft; Manchin may need another news cycle to come back to it.
The plan Manchin opposes would permanently ban new drilling leases in Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters, as well as in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. While they certainly wouldn't say it too loudly when the Trump administration opened almost all of America's coastlines for new drilling leases in early 2018, multiple Republican governors of coastal states weren't so hot on the potential for huge oil spills on their states' horizons, deepwater or shallow. But virtually every other Republican loves Big Oil, and so does Joe Manchin, who has opposed legislation that might mean less money for the industry that feeds him, both in terms of campaign contributions and his own wealth.
So far, Manchin has already killed off a key part of Biden's climate agenda, the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would have provided subsidies to utilities to generate more renewable energy, speeding up the nation's transition away from fossil fuels. He's also objected to any subsidies for clean energy development that wouldn't also be given for fossil fuels, and even griped about the details of proposed Electric Vehicle tax credits, because is it fair to promote union labor and building EVs in the USA?
As WaPo notes, the provision Manchin opposes isn't even especially radical, since it wouldn't affect existing oil and gas leases. The Natural Resources Defense Council was happy to point out that, in the Gulf of Mexico alone, oil companies already have leases that cover more than 10 million acres of ocean floor that they haven't yet developed.
“We won’t strengthen our economy by locking future generations into decades more reliance on dirty fuels that do more harm than good,” said Alexandra Adams, the group’s senior director of federal affairs. “The Senate should restore these essential protections immediately — and then pass this bill.”
The remaining drilling ban in the Senate bill draft would reverse the opening of Alaska's wildlife refuge to drilling, which was a fun little Fuck You, Earth! in Trump's 2017 tax cut bill. WaPo explains that preserving the wildlife preserve isn't simply a matter of keeping Manchin on board:
Manchin has a close rapport with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who used to chair the [energy committee] and has made opening the refuge to drilling a top priority. It is not clear whether he will support the ban, but Democratic staffers have been optimistic they can secure his support for the measure.
However, the provision still could be challenged under what is known as the “Byrd Rule,” which seeks to exclude extraneous policy matters from reconciliation and changes that decrease federal revenue. If the Senate parliamentarian agrees that it does not pass muster, the provision would be struck from the bill.
That seems weird, since opening up ANWR to drilling was itself included in the reconciliation bill that gave us the Big Fat Tax Cuts for rich Fuckwads, a bill that also ended the Obamacare insurance "mandate," or at least the fines for not having insurance, and that certainly reduced revenue. We're guessing that as long as the lease revenue is offset by BBB's other revenues, it should be OK with the parliamentarian? Who knows!
In any case, we're now going to predict that since Build Back Better is at least temporarily on hold, we won't be hearing any new Joe Manchin objections to the bill, at least not until shortly after our readers in California have had their second cup of coffee. Maybe.
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