- After blocking passage of climate initiatives, Manchin says he wants Congress to pass new climate initiatives.
- "The Congress has to act," he told reporters on Tuesday.
- Manchin has swerved on his economic positions, including on tax hikes and climate programs.
Less than a week after sinking a Democratic effort to combat the climate emergency, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he wants Congress to approve new programs to fight the climate emergency.
Asked about his reaction to President Joe Biden weighing the declaration of a national climate emergency, the conservative Democrat responded: "Let's see what the Congress does. The Congress needs to act."
The Washington Post first reported that Biden was deciding whether to undertake that maneuver, meant to pave the way for a slew of executive actions to confront climate change. It's unclear how aggressively the White House will move, but some climate activists are pressing them to bar crude oil exports and restrain drilling in federal waters.
Manchin later rejected criticism from his Democratic colleagues that he had strung his party along for the past year in negotiations to secure their agenda. But private frustrations are starting to spill out into the open due to his swerving public positions.
"It's not fair to string people along for a year and not come to a conclusion," Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico told reporters on Tuesday. "It's not an appropriate way to negotiate."
Heinrich suggested on Friday that Manchin should be stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee after the latest round of talks fell apart. That belief does not seem to be widespread among Senate Democrats so far.
It comes in the wake of Manchin privately telling Democratic leaders last week that he'd only support passing a pair of new healthcare programs, making clear he was opposed to tax increases and climate initiatives despite publicly and privately expressing support for those measures over months.
"Joe Manchin truly is Lucy, he just keeps moving the football every time the rest of the team runs up to kick it," Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan told Bloomberg. He was referring to the famous "Lucy and the football" gag in which Peanuts character Lucy van Pelt pulls the football away from Charlie Brown at the last second.
All 50 Senate Democrats must support the economic package to sidestep GOP opposition in the budget reconciliation process.
The conservative Democrat has kept the door open to negotiate a larger climate and tax reform bill through early September, insisting that he hasn't walked away from the table. Manchin says he wants to review the economy's health with another inflation report due on Aug 10.
But Democrats face a time-crunch with the congressional August recess kicking off within a few weeks and little time to avert premium hikes from an expiring Obamacare financial assistance program. Millions of Americans would receive notices of sharp increases in their monthly insurance bills just before the November midterms if Democrats don't step in soon.
Biden has urged Congress to quickly approve a skinny bill that includes only measures to empower the federal government to negotiate some prescription drug prices along with the extension of Affordable Care Act subsidies. But some Democrats are still calling to lock in a climate deal with the unpredictable holdout.
"While I strongly support additional executive action by President Biden, we know a flood of Republican lawsuits will follow," Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a Monday statement. "Legislation continues to be the best option here."