Joe Manchin is carving out a more conservative space as 2024 approaches

Senator Joe Manchin III has distanced himself from President Biden ahead of a possible run for Democrat in West Virginia, although he is playing coy about his re-election intentions.

He has opposed a number of presidential nominees, supports GOP efforts to dismantle Mr. Biden’s regulatory agenda, and is engaged in an all-out battle with the administration over implementation of the anti-inflation bill, which he co-wrote and passed in a party-line vote.

Despite being one of the most conservative Democrats in the chamber, Mr. Manchin is still a Democrat in a state that gave 68.6% of the vote to former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. He remains vague on his plans for the future and says he won’t disclose his intentions before the end of the year.

“We’re in Washington, that’s all I can say,” he said when the Washington Times asked him about his re-election plans. “People will guess whatever they want. I want to make sure we have energy security for our country. That’s all I care about.”

That hasn’t stopped Republicans — and some Democrats — from calling his outrage at some of the administration’s recent actions a political ploy to win over disgruntled voters back home.

Mr. Manchin, who would be one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate in 2024, was underwater on the approval rating in his home state.

In the months following his central role in the IRA’s formation last year, Mr. Manchin’s approval rating among West Virginians suffered a double-digit decline from about 60% to 42%, according to a Morning Consult poll. The dismal numbers made him the second most disliked senator with a 53% disapproval rate. Only Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was less popular, with 64% opposition.

These days, Mr. Manchin has rejected three candidates in recent weeks, successfully pushing through Gigi Sohn’s bid to join the Federal Communications Commission and Interior Department nominee Laura Daniel-Davis with his seat at the head of the Federal Communications Commission’s Energy Committee Senate blocked.

His latest thing against the presidential nominees came in a Houston Chronicle newspaper op-ed entitled: “Biden admin supports climate activists. I will not endorse their nominees.”

Mr. Manchin also opposed Daniel Werfel as IRS commissioner, who was confirmed last week thanks to several Republican senators who crossed the aisle to support him.

Mr. Manchin’s opposition stemmed from his feud with the government over the implementation of $370 billion in clean energy tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA. It was approved under special rules that allowed Democrats to force it through the Senate in a party-line vote and could not have passed without Mr Manchin’s support.

He was also instrumental in drafting the law.

Still, Mr Manchin says he has lost confidence in the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, and accused the agency of circumventing parts of the law that require electric vehicle components and manufacturing to be sourced in North America in order to qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits to qualify. The measure was designed to relieve the US of its dependence on China for key parts of electric vehicles, such as B. to wean critical minerals used in batteries. However, the Treasury has so far refused to enforce the rule months after it actually went into effect earlier this year.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who hails from the auto-industrial state of Michigan, stressed Mr. Manchin’s involvement in the IRA and said she had no concerns about the EV loans, which had him in turmoil.

“First of all, he wrote the IRA,” said Ms. Stabenow, a member of the Democratic leadership. “I support the way the administration is administering the EV tax credit. They are very complicated and very difficult.”

Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican and chairman of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, said Mr. Manchin was getting what he asked for.

“He was the key voice on the so-called Inflation Reduction Act,” said Mr. Daines. “In my opinion, it was a terrible vote that allowed the Biden administration and Senate Democrats to continue their green hallucination about America.”

The Treasury Department argues that the law is complicated and needs more time to create policy guidance, as it has been fiercely denied by European allies that the “Made in the USA” rule discourages international trade and partnerships.

But those apologies don’t fly with Mr. Manchin.

“I cannot get this government to implement the IRA as it is intended to be an energy security law,” Mr Manchin recently told reporters.

He added that the Treasury Department has “served automakers and progressive extremist groups and continued to sacrifice the national security of the United States of America.”

However, some of Mr. Manchin’s Senate colleagues say the alarm bells he continues to ring are real and reasonable.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, said Mr. Manchin’s frustration underscores why Republicans have little faith in the government.

“I think it’s sincere on Joe’s part, but I think it shows exactly why we don’t trust this government,” Mr. Cramer said. “Joe’s in the wrong party, that’s the problem.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and a member of the House Progressive Caucus, said he shares the same concerns about EV lending as Mr. Manchin, despite other policy differences.

“I spoke to Sen. Manchin throughout the IRA’s trial and his main concern was to make things in America,” Mr. Khanna said. “That was his mantra. There may be other places that have to do with political considerations, but that is a core value.”

Mr. Manchin has also sided with Republican efforts to undo Mr. Biden’s regulatory policies.

On two separate occasions he has signed privileged resolutions that require votes and only a simple majority is required for adoption.

The first would overturn a new Labor Department rule that allows 401(k) managers to engage in so-called ESG investing, which takes climate change and social justice into account when making investment decisions.

The second would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s expanded powers over “United States waters,” or WOTUS, to include streams, wetlands, and possibly drainage ditches. The disapproval resolution is expected to pass the Senate in an upcoming vote.

None will survive the President’s veto.

Mr Manchin echoed the GOP’s concerns, telling the Associated Press that WOTUS would “create further regulatory confusion, unnecessarily burden small businesses, farmers and local communities, and cause serious economic damage”.

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