Joe Manchin threatens to block Joe Biden's climate plan if GOP doesn't have a say, tells Dems 'don't abuse power'
President Joe Biden has taken a major step in the realm of climate change but after the way the coronavirus relief package was passed in the Senate last week to accommodate the centrist voices of the Democratic Party, it seems the blue party could face internal obstacles with a recovery package on climate change and infrastructure as well.
New Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, for instance, has even threatened to block Biden’s climate change and infrastructure package if GOP members do not have a voice in the negotiation process compared to what they had at the time of passing the Covid-19 stimulus bill. The veteran lawmaker, who is a moderate Democrat and emerged as a critical swing vote in the Senate which is very narrowly split at the moment, said he would use his position as the chairman of the Senate Energy Commission, which he took over last month, to hold up the climate bill unless the Republican members have their input.
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Manchin, 73, told Mike Allen in an interview to ‘Axios on HBO’: “I’m not going to do it through reconciliation. I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start trying.” The process of reconciliation requires only a simple majority like the Covid-19 stimulus, Manchin said. The Senate Democrats used reconciliation to pass the $1.9-trillion coronavirus stimulus plan by 50-49 vote. Manchin was one of the main reasons for the long delay behind the coronavirus stimulus bill because of his resistance to the idea of $15-minimum wage and extension of unemployment benefits.
The senator also sounded confident when the interviewer asked him whether he believed that getting 10 Republican votes on the infrastructure package is possible, which could yield 60 votes required under the normal Senate rules. “I sure do,” he said.
Manchin also said that he would push for tax hikes to pay for Biden’s upcoming infrastructure and climate proposal and will use his chairmanship to ensure that the GOP faces climate reality, something former President Donald Trump refused to acknowledge. Manchin also said that Biden is a president who knows the working of the Senate well. “He's the first president we've had to really, really understand the workings of the Senate since LBJ,” the senator said of the president who had in the past served as a member of the upper chamber for more than three decades.
Manchin also cautioned his fellow Democrats against rushing through the legislation by a simple majority. “I would say this to my friends. You’ve got power... Don’t abuse it. And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you throw the filibuster out.”
Manchin is worried about 'tremendous deep recession'
The Democrat, who believes that it was possible to get some GOP senators to back the Covid relief package that was passed this weekend with some concessions, said the climate infrastructure bill can be huge — as much as $4 trillion — as long as it is paid with a rise in taxes. He said he will begin bargaining by requiring the package to be 100 percent paid for. He also said that with all the debt piling up, he is worried about “a tremendous deep recession that could lead into a depression if we’re not careful... We’re just setting ourselves up”. He also spoke over tax increase scenarios, including raising the corporate tax from the current 21 percent to 25 percent “at least” and repealing “a lot of” of the tax cuts for the wealthy as seen in the Trump era.
The Democrats and Republicans have 50 seats each in the Senate but it is the blue party that holds an edge by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris having the tie-breaking vote.
It may be mentioned here that in a campaign ad ahead of his election as the senator a decade ago, Manchin, a former governor of West Virginia, was seen picking up a rifle and firing at a target labeled “cap and trade bill”. He said in the ad: “I sued the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and I’ll take dead aim at the cap and trade.” Manchin sued the EPA as the governor to stop the government from enforcing regulations to restrict mountain-mining removal causing massive pollution.