Sen. Joe Manchin III —the most conservative Democrat in the Senate—told Democratic leaders that he will not support new spending to combat the climate crisis or tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations, marking a massive setback for lawmakers who hoped to advance an economic package before the midterm elections this fall.
The Democrat who is blocking progressive change is beholden to big oil and fossil fuel industry profits.
Manchin owns millions of dollars in coal stock, founded the coal brokerage firm Enersystems, and Exxon lobbyists brag about their access to him. In Manchin’s financial disclosure for 2020, he reported that between 2011 and 2020 he was paid $5,211,154 in dividend income from non-public shares of Enersystems.
The decision threatens to upend President Joe Biden’s signature economic package seven months after Manchin scuttled the original Build Back Better Act, which would have made transformative investments at the scale necessary to meet the needs of the people, address dangerous deficits in our society, improve the U.S. economic outlook, and set America up to successfully compete in the decades ahead.
Manchin told Democratic leaders he is open to provisions that aim to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and extending subsidies that could help keep health insurance costs down for millions of Americans.
The West Virginia lawmaker has often worked with Republicans to blunt Democratic initiatives on such issues as abortion, immigration, energy policy, and gun violence.
Manchin opposes many progressive priorities, such as Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, abolishing the filibuster, and expanding the Supreme Court.
Manchin was the most prominent Democratic opponent of a $15 federal minimum wage, and real extent of his business interests is unclear, he has a financial stake in a hotel and a chain of flooring stores that would have to increase pay if such a measure passed.
Manchin’s clearly puts his own financial interest ahead of those of the people he represents, but that does not stop the Democratic establishment from backing him.
The last time he faced the voters, in November 2018, Manchin was reelected without a majority, defeating West Virginia’s Trump-endorsed Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, 290,510 (49.6%) to 271,113 (46.3%).
Six months earlier, Manchin easily dispatched under-funded progressive primary challenger Paula Jean Swearengin 112,658 (69.86%) to 48,594 (30.14%).
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s PAC spent $12.7 million aiding Manchin— in addition to $2.5 million from the Blue Dog Majority Forward PAC, the $2.3 million spent by the DSCC, and $9.4 million that Manchin raised for himself.