How Joe Manchin Enabled President Biden's Attack on the Coal Industry

US President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 into law during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, August 16, 2022.

by Faruk Imamovic
How Joe Manchin Enabled President Biden's Attack on the Coal Industry

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law a major bill climate change and health care spending, giving Democrats another boost ahead of midterm elections in which Republicans are suddenly less certain of a projected landslide victory.

It was just a few months ago that West Virginia's Joe Manchin was being hailed as perhaps the most powerful politician in Washington, DC. This was especially true for issues related to energy policy, given his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

But Manchin's decision to become the deciding vote in favor of the misnamed Inflation Reduction Act in early August put an end to any such talk among the chattering class. That bill gave President Joe Biden and the Congressional Green New Dealers almost everything they wanted, and the only thing Senator Manchin got in return was a nebulous "deal" with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to continue the passage language designed to streamline federal energy permitting processes.

It was immediately obvious to anyone who understands how politics works in the capital that the deal Senator Manchin struck would have little real chance of success, and I detailed the reasons why in a piece here on August 22nd.

No one was really surprised when Mr. Manchin gave up the ghost just weeks later after embarking on what appeared to be a token fight. In any case, Senator Manchin essentially gave up any real political power he possessed by signing the IRA when he did.

Now, with Republicans looking likely to regain the majority in the Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections, and Manchin's approval ratings plummeting before he has to run for re-election in 2024, no one really expects him to regain the political relevance he once had.

had. No one now mentions Senator Manchin as the most powerful politician in Washington, DC.
Against this backdrop, it was almost amusing Saturday when Senator Manchin lashed out at President Biden for remarks he made on Friday.

During a speech on the CHIPS bill in San Diego, Biden said, “No one is building new coal plants because they can't rely on it, even if they have all the coal guaranteed for the rest of the plant's life. So it will become the wind generation”.

Making matters even more worrisome for Manchin, whose home state still relies heavily on the coal industry, Biden then added, "We're going to close these plants across America and have wind and solar." Well, yes, and that's in large part due to the hundreds of billions of dollars in new renewable energy subsidies contained in the IRA, along with all the increased regulatory and executive powers the bill gives to Biden and his administration agencies.

Closing coal plants and actually "ending" the coal industry altogether - as Biden repeatedly promised during his campaign - is actually one of the main goals of the IRA. It is hard to believe that Senator Manchin did not understand this reality when he cast his vote in favor of the bill.

But saying that part out loud, publicly, and by the president himself, was a real political problem for Sen. Manchin, given the key and highly visible role he played in securing the bill's passage. So Manchin responded with a press release on Saturday.

"President Biden's comments are not only outrageous and disconnected from reality, they ignore the serious economic pain the American people are feeling due to rising energy costs," Manchin said. "Such comments are the reason the American people are losing confidence in President Biden. … His positions seem to change daily depending on the audience and the politics of the day.

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