Democrat Joe Manchin is coming under heavy fire from Democrats and environmental campaigners alike over the possibility that he will be elevated to the ranking position on the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, with opponents accusing him of being in bed with the fossil fuel industry.
For anyone not deeply connected to the intricacies of US politics, Senator Joe Manchin is the senior Senator from West Virginia, a seat he has held since 2010, and a Democrat in a deeply red state. Thus, Senator Manchin has a voting record as consistent as a drunk slalom skier, and the political beliefs to match. In fact, Manchin votes in line with Donald Trump 60.8% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
And, famously, Joe Manchin once ran a political ad in which he shot a copy of the cap and trade bill and has taken over a million dollars from the fossil fuel industry in donations. Manchin also remains a strong supporter of his state’s coal industry as a means to ensuring the vote of the many who make their lives in the coal mines.
So, it might come as something of a surprise — or, as no surprise whatsoever — that Joe Manchin is being positioned as the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a committee which has wide-ranging jurisdiction over the United States’ energy policies and the use of federal lands.
“Joe Manchin is an obviously unacceptable choice,” said Lukas Ross, a senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth. “Progressives are losing faith in Chuck Schumer if they haven’t already lost it.”
“Joe Manchin could not be further out of step with his colleagues on the climate crisis, and shouldn’t be anywhere near leadership that determines our energy policy,” added Julian Brave NoiseCat, 350.org US Policy Analyst. “As someone who took over a million dollars in fossil fuel industry donations, he’s the textbook example of a bought-and-paid-for politician — we might as well give a coal executive that promotion. With our climate and communities at stake, our job is to push Congress to support a Green New Deal that puts millions of people to work building a 100% renewable energy economy for all.”
Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, and a potential 2020 Democratic candidate, has similarly launched a petition to demand that Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, block Manchin’s elevation, sending an email out to supporters insisting that “Senate Democrats must not allow Joe Manchin to become the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I need your help to stop this.”
It would be an unusual move by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer if he were to block Manchin’s elevation, but one that would be in line with the shifting focus of the Democratic party, which took back the House of Congress thanks to a much more diverse and left-leaning crop of new candidates.
Throwing one final wrench into the works of the whole debacle, Senator Joe Manchin reversed course on Wednesday and voted against President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Bernard L. McNamee, amidst what many believe is an attempt to engender himself to his Democratic party and secure the leadership position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The Trump Administration announced in early October the nomination of McNamee to fill the FERC vacancy. At the time, McNamee served as the Executive Director of the Office of Policy for the US Department of Energy (DOE), before which he served in a variety of roles including practicing energy law with McGuireWoods LLP and serving four Attorneys General in Virginia and Texas. McNamee’s resume was impressive, but his record was less so, having been a fierce advocate for the fossil fuel and nuclear industries. McNamee was also key in designing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to prop up these industries, proposed in October of 2017, the plan was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in early January after numerous complaints and criticisms were raised with the plan from across the energy sector.
“After viewing video footage, which I had not previously seen, where Bernard McNamee outright denies the impact that humans are having on our climate, I can no longer support his nomination to be a FERC commissioner,” said Manchin. “Climate change is real, humans have made a significant impact, and we have the responsibility and capability to address it urgently.”
Whether or not this will help Manchin’s chances of securing the leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee remains to be seen, but his own track record and the appearance of being in the fossil fuel industry’s pocket is liable to make his chances difficult, at best.