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Clean Power

Joe Manchin’s a Coal Man Covered in Red & Green — That’s the Situation

Why is Joe Manchin so intent on stopping Joe Biden’s agenda, the agenda that Biden clearly got elected to deliver?

First of all, let’s remember that the people of the United States voted for Biden & Harris, not Manchin & Sinema. That matters for the future of the Democratic Party, and for the future of the US. A couple of senators seem intent on blocking that agenda. Let’s look at the most notable one in this article, Senator Joe Manchin.

Senator Manchin is a rich coal man representing some of the reddest (and poorest) areas of the country. He’s rich, his kids are rich, and he has always been happy to look out for the backs of the super wealthy. (Yes, it’s ironic that poor Republican voters consistently vote for politicians who work on behalf of the super wealthy rather than the working class, but we won’t even go there today.)

Almost since Biden stepped into office, the question has been how much he and a slim Democratic majority in the House and Senate can get bare basics passed into law and how much they can get elements of the core progressive agenda passed into law. The biggest challenge is the Senate, where there are 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with VP Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. To get something passed, that requires getting the most progressive Democrat and the most right-wing/corporatist Democrat to agree on the legislation.

After a big recovery bill earlier this year, there was hope that next would be a big infrastructure bill (at last) and more substantive policies for the working class and “investments into the people of the nation.” After several weeks of discussion about this, it was time to get into the action — what compromises were needed to make something happen? Unfortunately, it stalled. Progressives made clear, specific compromises to try to push the the blockade. Hope rose higher than ever — a deal was made! Then, at almost the last minute, the deal fell apart. Again, a couple of people were rumored to be blocking the deal. Progressives made more compromises, momentum picked up. And now … Manchin is slamming the door.

It has been clear for months that neither the bland roads & bridges bill or the big progressive bill that delivers on most of the things Biden promised while running for president will move forward alone. If anyone wants to get the infrastructure bill passed so that they can go home and brag to their constituents about what road they got funded, they have to be willing to let Biden and progressives deliver some of the change they were elected to deliver. If Manchin is frustrated that the infrastructure bill is not moving, maybe he should have taken the negotiations seriously from the beginning. As you can see in the tweet above, progressives have compromised to the point of cutting the more important bill by almost two-thirds. Each step of the way, the goal has been to get to a point with Manchin that they can pass the two bills. And then the ball has been pulled away like Lucy would pull the football away from Charlie Brown. As someone who follows this closely, it has been nothing short of frustrating — to put it lightly.

Manchin has now released some hodgy podgy nonsense for why he can’t move forward with the second bill, which we’ll just call the reconciliation bill from here on out. He is supposedly concerned about the deficit, which is nonsense. Almost no one in Congress is actually concerned about the deficit — it’s just a vague talking point to block bills. Top economists explained years ago why concerns about the deficit are overhyped and misguided, and they continue to do so every time this comes up. In the most basic terms, this is not a personal credit card bill or bank account and doesn’t need to be “balanced,” and fears of what would happen as the deficit rises have been proven untethered from reality. In any case, this is not what Manchin really cares about, and it’s laughable to pretend he is. The problem: he has nothing else to say that sounds even vaguely logical and noble.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Or one of two hearts. It’s been almost not talked about till today (when it has suddenly blown up), but it’s also something everyone knows. Joe Manchin comes coal country. Coal may be nearly dead, but coal country is still coal country. One of the top top priorities for progressives is strong climate action, which means shutting down more coal plants. Can Manchin just say the quite part out loud — “I don’t want to see climate action. I’d like to see the planet burn.” — and get away with it? Frankly, in West Virginia, he probably can, but that’s still a step too far for a politician like Joe Manchin who wants to be seen as sane and doesn’t want to be primaried. In fact, it should be known that Manchin is such a coal-country man that he makes money on coal and also has a clear financial motive for blocking climate solutions. Oh, also, he doesn’t want to be asked any questions about that.

Alas, why can’t we all just be emperors?

In any case, coal is probably problem #1 in these negotiations. Though, there’s another big problem. Manchin, and seemingly Senator Kyrsten Sinema, prefers to just do the bidding of large corporations and the super rich at the expense of the working class — while somehow fooling enough normal people into thinking that helps them. Let’s be honest: they’ve learned a thing or two about the pro-corporate-abuse fraud that Republican politicians are adept at conducting in the large red areas of their states. Say you’re for the common man (and woman). Do whatever large corporations want to do to squeeze more profits out of the common man (and woman). Hold fundraisers with the wealthy and jot down a checklist of what you are and are not allowed to do.

(Side note: Joe Manchin’s daughter is infamous for jacking up the price of EpiPens and making $19 million/year in salary + perks in the process. “According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Bresch’s total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 from 2007 to 2015. That’s a striking 671 percent increase. That period coincides with the period when Mylan acquired the rights to EpiPens and steadily hiked the average wholesale price from about $55 to $320,” the Washington Post summarized in 2016. “A standard 2-pack now costs between $600 to $700.” Did father Manchin teach his daughter to get rich screwing over the poor and the working class? We will never know. …)

Coal aside, Joe Manchin is simply not a gung-ho champion of workers’ rights, a higher quality of life for the working class and poor, or investing in the American people.

Unfortunately, it appears that no persuasion, pressure, or policy trades are going to get Manchin to vote for a progressive bill, even if that means getting nothing done.

Get nothing through this Congress, and there’s a good chance Biden and other Democrats are seen as not delivering on their promises (because they won’t be) and not worth supporting in the future. The problem may be that we need a couple more true Democrats in the Senate, but the result will likely be a red wave due to a certain number of Democrats simply not getting out and voting next time. And God knows what that will bring?… Republicans have proven themselves to be almost 100% anti-democratic authoritarians in the past year, willing to break, change, and bend any rule to retain or gain power.

Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic on this. If someone could figure out what they could offer Manchin and Sinema to move things along, I feel like it would have happened months ago. It’s getting late in the year, and I’ve yet to see a strong sign that they are going to help push Biden’s agenda through, and are more willing to see the Democratic Party fail, a red wave roll in, and US democracy be put on life support or die.

Ah, coal and cash — they’re not done with their destructive ways.


Featured image courtesy of DonkeyHotey (CC BY 2.0 license)

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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