West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is catching more heat from fellow Democrats on Monday, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin accusing the centrist of letting the party’s budget talks ‘drag out’ for months before voicing opposition to more of its key measures.
Conservative Democrat Manchin told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that he could not support the reconciliation bill’s climate change provisions late last week. He killed a $1.75 trillion version of the spending package during a Fox News interview in December last year – delivering an embarrassing blow to President Joe Biden’s agenda.
‘My major frustration is I think Joe should have made his position clearer a hell of a long time ago,’ said Durbin, Schumer’s number two.
The Illinois Democrat fumed to CNN that Manchin let ‘this thing drag out for six or seven months of this year’ before voicing his opposition.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had harsher words for Manchin during a Sunday ABC News interview, accusing him of ‘intentionally sabotaging’ the president’s agenda.
Asked about the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist’s fiery remarks and similar sentiments from other progressives, Manchin insisted he didn’t ‘take it personally.’
‘I’ve been around for a long time. People say things sometimes they might not mean, and I don’t take it personally. I only have one thing personal – my family,’ Manchin also told CNN.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (right) is the latest Democrat to publicly express his frustrations with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s (left) abrupt opposition to key proposals in ongoing budget talks
Manchin’s reversal on climate change proposals he previously suggested potential openness to earned a fresh round of attacks from progressives in his party, including calls to remove him from the chairmanship of the Senate Energy Committee.
Durbin reportedly spurned those calls while Manchin indicated that he would not budge from his role.
‘I understand their frustration and concern,’ Manchin said. ‘It’s a democracy, I come from another state – but energy is something we have to have.’
And on Sunday, Sanders clashed with ABC News This Week anchor Martha Raddatz when she ventured to bring up Manchin’s ‘abrupt’ opposition to Biden’s climate change measures.
‘He didn’t abruptly do anything,’ Sanders shouted over Raddatz’s attempt to ask about the conservative Democrat. ‘He has sabotaged the president’s agenda.’
He accused Manchin and his fellow conservative Democrat senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, of ‘intentionally’ going against ‘what the American people want.’
Sanders also wrote off Manchin’s concerns about a spending package’s impact on soaring inflation as ‘nonsense.’
Transitioning the country away from fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions, particularly in light of the worsening effects of climate change, was a cornerstone of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tore into his colleague Manchin during a fiery interview on ABC News on Sunday
But after months of negotiation at the highest levels, Manchin torpedoed Democrats’ chances of passing Biden’s climate agenda in Congress on Thursday.
The Senate’s 50-50 split means virtually every Democrat needs to vote in lock-step to pass a majority of Biden’s more progressive agenda items. It’s also given Manchin and Sinema an outsized influence over their party.
‘Six months ago, I made it clear that you have people like Manchin – Sinema to a lesser degree – who are intentionally sabotaging the president’s agenda, what the American people want, what a majority of us in the Democratic caucus want,’ Sanders said.
‘Nothing new about this. And the problem was, that we continue to talk to Manchin like he was serious. He was not’
Manchin and Sinema’s opposition has been responsible for tanking Democrats’ attempts to codify voting rights, abortion protections and pass Biden’s ambitious spending plan known as Build Back Better.
Manchin shooting down the climate provisions on Thursday prompted a flurry of criticism from his fellow Democrats – including an enraged Sanders.
‘This is a guy who is a major recipient of fossil fuel money, a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires,’ the Vermont senator said.
Sanders dismissed Manchin’s explanation that he was acting out the will of West Virginians and reacting to the soaring cost of consumer goods – which rose an average 9.1 percent in June from the year before.
It was ‘the same nonsense that Manchin has been talking about for a year,’ the progressive lawmaker said.
‘West Virginia – it’s a beautiful state, and I’ve had the pleasure of being there. Great people. It is one of poorest states in this country.’
Inflation in the U.S. rose to 9.1 percent in June, the highest since 1981 and above what economist had predicted. Sanders dismissed Manchin’s inflation concerns as ‘nonsense’
He insisted that its residents would benefit from provisions like expanded Medicare and higher taxes for the ultra-wealthy and large corporations.
‘Ask the people of West Virginia whether or not all people should have health care as a human right, like in every other country on Earth. That’s what they will say,’ Sanders said.
‘In my humble opinion, you know, Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country, not working families in West Virginia or America.’
And Sanders warned that Manchin’s opposition to the climate change proposals will have ramifications on ‘the future of the planet.’
‘So, when Manchin sabotages climate change, this is the future generations what’s going on right now. In the West, all over the world, we’re looking at significantly increased – more and more heat waves. You’d have to look at more flooding. This is an existential threat to humanity,’ he explained.
Sanders’ closing message was a public call to voters to elect ‘more progressive Democrats’ in future elections – another veiled jab at the Southern centrist.
The president promised last week to take ‘strong’ action to slow the effects of climate change after Manchin’s about-face.
‘If the Senate will not move to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to meet this moment,’ Biden said in a statement.