Joe Manchin Defeats Progressives in Battle Over Joe Biden's Climate Plan

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) appears to have defeated progressive Democrats on a key provision of the proposed $3.5 trillion infrastructure and social spending package.

A central part of President Joe Biden's climate change agenda will reportedly be removed from the bill because of Manchin's opposition, according to a report from The New York Times citing congressional staffers and lobbyists.

A plan to rapidly replace coal and gas-fired power plants throughout the U.S. with wind, solar and nuclear energy is expected to be cut from the bill in a move that could outrage progressives in Congress.

The $150 billion plan for clean electricity would reward utility companies that make the switch from fossil fuels to renewables as well penalizing those who did not.

The measure would have significantly reduced the production of greenhouse gases over the next decade, according to experts.

Reducing fossil fuel emissions and cutting greenhouse gases heating the planet are cornerstones of tackling climate change. Biden is aiming to decarbonize the U.S. power grid by 2035 and the U.S. economy by 2050 as part of his climate goals.

However, if the clean energy provisions are stripped from the bill, it will leave Biden more vulnerable to criticism over U.S. efforts to cut emissions when he attends the U.N. climate change summit in Glasgow in two weeks' time.

Progressives have previously suggested that the climate change measures are a red line and that they may oppose the bill if they are not included, while Democrats have indicated that climate change is a non-negotiable part of the bill.

"We will have what we need in terms of the climate provisions," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in San Francisco on Thursday.

Pelosi said climate change was "central" to the bill. Progressives have also held rallies in recent weeks chanting the slogan "No climate, no deal!"

The infrastructure and social spending bill, called the Build Back Better Act, is intended to be passed using the budget reconciliation process which will not require Republican support. However, with a slim majority in the House of Representatives and an evenly divided Senate, Democrats have little room to maneuver and losing votes from progressives could sink the bill.

White House Spokesperson Vedant Patel told The New York Times on Friday that "the White House is laser focused on advancing the president's climate goals and positioning the United States to meet its emission targets in a way that grows domestic industries and good jobs."

Patel did not comment on the specifics of the bill. The Times reported that the White House is rewriting it to exclude the clean energy provision.

Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon told the newspaper: "Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they're already doing. He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability."

Manchin's home state of West Virginia is a major coal producer and his vote is crucial for Democrats' hopes of passing the Build Back Better Act in the Senate.

Progressives in the House have proven a counterweight to Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who often supports his positions, as the two senators have said they will not support the bill with the current price tag.

A battle within the party over climate change has been previewed for some time, however. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) tweeted on June 9: "No climate, no deal" and other progressives have previously expressed a similar sentiment.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) told a Climate Power event on June 9: "The White House and Democratic Congress need to hold strong on real meaningful bold substantial climate provisions that President Biden proposed in his American Jobs Plan.

"There is little appetite in our caucus for an infrastructure plan that ignores the greatest crisis, the most existential crisis that we face," Heinrich said.

Joe Manchin Leaves a Capitol Hill Luncheon
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) leaves a Democratic luncheon at the U.S. Capitol October 7, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin appears to have scored a victory over progressives on a climate change provision in the Build Back Better Act. Win McNamee/Getty Images