Friday, July 12, 2024

Were Biden’s Latest Comments on Coal Last Straw For Manchin As A Dem?

Did Joe Manchin just signal he’s finally had it with the Democrat Party? Was his coal-fired rebuke of President Joe Biden Nov. 5 the first in his 2024 re-election campaign as an independent or, perhaps, a Republican? So far, the senator from West Virgina’s not revealed anything new about his political future, though there’s consensus among red and blue pundits that his condemnation of Biden’s derogatory comments about the coal industry the day before — when the president was supposed to be talking about semiconductors in Carlsbad, California, about 35 minutes north of downtown San Diego by Interstate-5 —  represented an extraordinary admonishment by a sitting U.S. senator of his own party’s leader.

After Biden  called for coal plants across the country to be shuttered and replaced by more renewable energy sources, Manchin slammed Biden, saying the president’s remarks were “outrageous and divorced from reality.” He also suggested it may be “time” that Biden “learn a lesson.”

Said Biden: “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar also providing tax credit to help families buy energy-efficient appliances.”

Manchin, a Democrat with longtime ties to the coal industry, further criticized Biden’s statements for ignoring “the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs.

“Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believes he does not understand the need to have an all in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure,” Manchin continued. “It seems his positions change depending on the audience and the politics of the day. Politicizing our nation’s energy policies would only bring higher prices and more pain for the American people.”

It’s not been unusual for Manchin, a moderate who has refused saying whether he thinks Biden should seek a second term in office, to criticize or even take positions to block Biden’s agenda. But, his statement over the weekend served as a vivid reminder of the ongoing tensions between Manchin and more progressive flanks of the Democrat Party.

“Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting. The President owes these incredible workers an immediate and public apology and it is time he learn a lesson that his words matter and have consequences,” said Manchin. “Let me be clear, this is something the President has never said to me.”

Manchin, who has already announced he plans on seeking a third term in the Senate, has been the source of ongoing speculation about his potential willingness to leave the Democrat Party.

A series of news stories made the rounds earlier this year about how Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — were trying mightily to persuade Manchin to switch his party affiliation, which would hand control of the Senate back to the GOP.

However, according to the newly-released book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future,” by New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, Manchin reportedly said in early 2021 that he would consider leaving the Democrats and caucus with Senate Republicans if there were a change in leadership and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were no longer in charge — which, considering everything that has transpired over the last year, could be a distinct possibility.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded in a statement Saturday saying Biden’s words about the coal industry had been misrepresented.

“The President’s remarks yesterday have been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these rmarks took offense. The President was commenting on a fact of economics and technology: as it has been from its earliest days as an energy superpower, America is once again in the midst of an energy transition,” Jean-Pierre said.

The Energy Information Administration projects that coal generation will decline from 22.5 percent of U.S. electricity in 2021 to 22.2 percent in 2022, and then dip to 19.9 percent in 2023 -– the same energy share as it contributed in 2020, when coal production hit its lowest level in decades. It is anticipated natural gas will be able to make up for some of coal’s declining share this year and beyond.