Bernie Sanders Re-ignites Feud as Joe Manchin Wins Battle Over Fossil Fuel Plan

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) hit back at Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Friday over an opinion piece in a major West Virginia newspaper where Sanders urged passage of the proposed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act.

Sanders' op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the state's largest newspaper, specifically highlighted Manchin's opposition to the social spending and infrastructure package.

The dispute comes as Manchin appeared to score a victory over Democratic progressives on a major climate change measure in the bill that would have allotted $150 billion to replace coal and gas-fired power plants in the U.S.

Sanders and Manchin have been clashing over the Build Back Better Act in a feud that has concerned Democrats seeking to press forward with President Joe Biden's agenda.

Biden reportedly joked earlier this month that getting Manchin and Sanders in a room together would be like "homicide."

In the op-ed published on Friday, Sanders discussed the threat of climate change and took aim at the fossil fuel industry. West Virginia is a major producer of coal.

The senator noted "the existential threat of climate change."

"With the planet becoming warmer and warmer, with unprecedented forest fires, drought, floods and extreme weather disturbances, and when scientists tell us that we only have a few years to avoid irreparable damage to our country and planet, this legislation begins the process of cutting carbon emissions and transforming our energy systems away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy," Sanders wrote.

"And when we do all of these things, and more, we create millions of good paying jobs and offer a brighter future for our young people," he went on.

Democrats hope to pass the Build Back Better Act using the budget reconciliation process, which will not require Republican votes but will need the support of Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema in the evenly divided Senate. Both Democrats have said they oppose the bill with the current $3.5 trillion price tag.

"This reconciliation bill is being opposed by every Republican in Congress as well as the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and the billionaire class," Sanders wrote. "They want to maintain the status quo in which the very rich get richer while ordinary Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet."

Sanders briefly mentioned Manchin by name before concluding the article: "Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote 'yes.' We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin."

Manchin responded on Friday by issuing a statement on Twitter and retweeting the Gazette-Mail's post featuring Sanders' op-ed.

"This isn't the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state," Manchin's statement said.

"Millions of jobs are open, supply chains are strained and unavoidable inflation taxes are draining workers' hard-earned wages as the price of gasoline and groceries continues to climb.

"Senator Sanders' answer is to throw more money on an already overheated economy while 52 other Senators have grave concerns about this approach," Manchin said.

"To be clear, again, Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that."

Manchin seemed poised to defeat progressives on a key climate change measure in the Build Back Better Act after The New York Times reported on Friday that the White House was rewriting the bill to exclude a plan to move power plants away from fossil fuels.

The final bill will still need Manchin's support to pass in the evenly divided Senate, though progressives in the House of Representatives may oppose the bill without the climate change measure.

Bernie Sanders Speaks at a News Conference
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gestures as he speaks during a pen and pad news conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. Sanders has written an op-ed in a West Virginia newspaper urging the passage of the Build Back Better Act. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images