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How Far Will Joe Manchin Go Against the Biden Administration? And Will It Be Enough?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is always one to watch. He's still a Democrat, though every now and then, people wonder if he will become an independent or even a Republican. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had been a Democrat and, like Manchin, was often considered to be a conservative one. She became an independent last December

Particularly noteworthy is how Manchin has recently spoken out against the misnamed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which he helped become law after having previously killed President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act. 

Last July, it was announced that Manchin had cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to get permitting reforms in return for his support for the bill. But then his fellow Democrats in the House and the Senate announced that they would not support such a proposal since they did not make such a deal with Manchin. With Republicans unwilling to step in and help, Manchin asked Schumer last September to remove permitting reforms from the continuing resolution (CR). It was what many had speculated on all along, from many of us here at Townhall to Manchin's colleague Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The senator has since moved forward with energy permit legislation. Earlier this month, he introduced the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023. 

Manchin has ramped up his criticism of the IRA and how he expects the administration to do better. Time will tell how much his criticism is worth, if anything, especially now that the bill has become law. 

It looks to have taken some time for Manchin to get there, given he told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News's "Sunday Morning Futures" in late February when asked if he regretted voting for the bill that "no, not at all" and said that "the Inflation Reduction Act will be the most transformative bill that we've ever had," claiming "it's energy security."

He also had previously admitted it wouldn't do anything to immediately reduce inflation. 

Not long after that February 26 media hit, on March 10, Manchin wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, which was also posted to the "Democratic News" newsroom section of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, which he chairs. At one point, he wrote:

Despite the promise and progress offered within the IRA, the Biden administration continues to ignore congressional intent on critical components of the IRA. Instead of following the legislation designed to ensure America's energy security, they have chosen to illogically advance a partisan climate agenda and appease radical activists. In fact, over the last few months, both the Department of Treasury and Department of the Interior have explicitly and unabashedly violated the letter of the law, the intent of the law, or both, in an effort to elevate climate goals above the energy and national security of this nation. This is wrong and it must stop.

At the end of that month, he called out the administration in a March 29 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, which was posted to his official website. He also defended his position during the round of Sunday show appearances he did early last month, including when asked by "Fox News Sunday" host Shannon Bream to respond to Ed Morrissey's March 30 piece for our sister site at HotAir.

Morrissey had pointed out that it's "impossible" for him to distance himself from the IRA, and if he wants to talk about "political malpractice," then "maybe he should look in the mirror." 

Manchin was adamant that the charge was "ridiculous," but a takeaway from the op-ed and his Sunday show appearances that weekend is that he may have had far too much faith in his fellow Democrats. "I mean, from the standpoint, we write pieces of legislation. We expect the administration to adhere to the intent and how we wrote it. It's in the bill. Read the law. So, anybody who has that opinion has not read the bill. What we have to do now, we have a process, so we can hold their feet accountable," Manchin continued. 

He also appeared again on Fox News in late April, where he lambasted the IRA, including the cost involved, and even made clear he would repeal the bill. We'll see if he gets the chance to do so. 

The week before that media hit, during a hearing, Chairman Manchin got into it with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, where he voiced his utmost displeasure about the cost and implementation of the IRA, including and especially when it comes to electric vehicle tax credits, something Manchin expressed "my personal belief is we didn't need any," after he had also previously complained in a statement about the EV tax credits. 

He also said in part during the hearing, "I am so upset about this because [the administration] is doing everything they can to bust the budget, what we promised the American people that bill would cost."

There have been even more recent updates regarding Manchin and the Department of Energy, though. 

As The Hill reported just earlier this week, Manchin, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), criticized the Biden administration for allowing Chinese-made components to be included in solar panels receiving tax benefits under the IRA. Like Manchin, Wyden and Kaptur voted for the IRA.

"The proposed guidance issued on how to qualify for a 10% tax credit bonus intended to onshore supply chains for electricity generation would instead reinforce Chinese control over the solar supply chain. This is yet another example of the Biden Administration manipulating the law to push their radical climate agenda at the expense of American energy security," Manchin said in a statement. "China produces 97% of the world's solar wafers, which this guidance completely ignores, and in fact, it rewards the continuation of this Chinese dominance. This should enrage everyone as much as it enraged me to rely on China through a back door policy, and I am happy to see my colleague, Chairman Wyden, also commit to look for opportunities to rectify it."

Earlier this month, those three members voted in favor of overriding Biden's two-year suspension of tariffs on solar imports from four Southeast Asia countries, though Biden vetoed it. Manchin had co-sponsored the resolution in the Senate. 

On Wednesday, Manchin also made clear he wasn't supporting Jeff Marootian for Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. He even canceled the hearing to consider his nomination. 

"While I supported Mr. Marootian's nomination in December, since then, the office he's been nominated to lead has proposed stove efficiency rules that I've raised concerns about. While I appreciate that these rules would only apply to new stoves, my view is that it's part of a broader, Administration-wide effort to eliminate fossil fuels. For that reason, I'm not comfortable moving forward with Mr. Marootian at this time," Manchin said in a statement provided to Townhall. 

Another nominee Manchin may help to block is Julie Su, who has been tapped to replace Biden's former Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. Sinema, as well as Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), another red state Republican up for reelection in 2024, have also not committed. Even more noteworthy is that Schumer won't confirm if he's scheduling a vote on her nomination. She passed out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) last month, along partisan lines. 

Yet, these are not the only nominees Manchin has come out against or could come out against. He announced on May 10 that he "will oppose all EPA nominees until they halt their government overreach" when it comes to "targeting power plant emissions." 

Manchin has also made headlines for other ways in which he's going against the administration, coming together with his Republican colleagues to send bipartisan messages against the administration. Earlier in February, the Washington Examiner did a round-up of the ways in which Manchin is working with Republicans, including the issue of government overreach on gas stoves, politicizing 401(k) payments, and border security. 

He's also stood strong against nuking the filibuster, including when it comes to trying to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would legalize abortion on demand in all 50 states throughout all nine months of pregnancy, something Manchin has also voted against

Also on the pro-life front, Manchin last month co-sponsored Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) resolution to block the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from forcing taxpayers to fund abortions at their medical facilities. 

Manchin has spoken up in favor of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)'s plan to raise the debt ceiling while cutting spending as well and has encouraged the president to engage in negotiations. Biden rebuffed McCarthy for more than three months despite the speaker's attempts. 

It's still worthwhile to remind that in the midst of this, there's an election year coming up. Manchin has not yet announced whether he is running for reelection in one of the most closely watched Senate races that Republicans may flip, even if Manchin does run again. He may instead run for president. We won't know until "the end of the year," though. Manchin is facing a formidable challenge from the popular sitting Republican governor of his state, Jim Justice. Each man is insistent that he can be the one to win that race.

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