ClimateDemocracyNews & Opinion
by Mark Schlosberg
This year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) marked the nation’s first-ever major piece of climate legislation. The Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, was a tribute to the growing climate movement. But because of one Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the Act was not nearly bold enough.
Worse, it was larded up with fossil fuel industry giveaways, including billions in subsidies for the climate scam carbon capture and storage. The Act also opens the Gulf of Mexico to more drilling and holds renewable development on public lands hostage to drilling permits.
Over the last two years, an even Senate split has given coal baron Joe Manchin final say over much of the Democratic agenda, slowing our transition off fossil fuels. But there is no reason Manchin should have so much power.
This November, we have a chance to make him irrelevant by voting in more Democratic senators and shifting the balance of power.
Manchin Heaps Gifts on Big Oil, Blocking Bold Climate Action
Over the last two years, Sen. Manchin has blocked Biden’s agenda and meaningful climate action. In doing this, he has consistently carried water for the fossil fuel industry.
First, Manchin held up Biden’s infrastructure agenda by cutting a deal with Republicans to create the bipartisan infrastructure bill, rather than just passing Biden’s Build Back Better proposal. In doing so, Manchin secured funding for industry pet projects like carbon capture, hydrogen, and fossil fuels, including specific fossil fuel projects.
Next, Manchin walked back his commitment to advance Biden’s agenda until he could pare down its scope and ambition significantly. The result was the Inflation Reduction Act. Again, Manchin made sure the legislation was filled with gifts to his fossil fuel patrons (the senator receives more donations from the fossil fuel industry than any of his colleagues).
But even with the IRA and its giveaways in hand, Manchin wasn’t done. He has since pushed a dirty side deal to fast track more fossil fuel projects under the guise of “permitting reform.” Thus far, thanks to organizing and an outcry of opposition, we shut down the deal for now.
Manchin Only Has Power in a 50-50 Senate
How can one Senator force through such a litany of pro-fossil fuel provisions, even as global warming continues to escalate? It has only been possible with an evenly divided senate.
With this split, a single senator can cast a tie-breaking vote. And by threatening to withhold that vote, that senator can single-handedly set the terms of the party’s agenda. And this is exactly what Manchin has done.
Democrats entered their current tripartite majority (President, Senate, and House) with big plans to fight climate change and help workers and families. But Manchin blocked support for climate measures, healthcare, and more. He nixed some of the most transformational measures in what would have been Build Back Better, and then in what became the Inflation Reduction Act.
If Democrats had a majority with only two more senators, Manchin and his sometime ally, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), would no longer have such powerful votes. The rest of the party could move forward without them — in essence, making Manchin irrelevant.
With Our Work, Democrats Can Take The Senate And Hold The House
This November, we have a chance to make Sen. Manchin irrelevant and advance a bolder and more progressive climate agenda. That depends, however, on Democrats expanding their majority in the Senate and holding the House. Simply put, we need more and better Democrats.
Food & Water Action is working to make this happen. In these midterms, we’re campaigning for progressives in tight races that could make or break the next few years of climate action.
For instance, strong progressive Jamie McLeod Skinner could win a swing district in Oregon. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, we’re supporting Chris DeLuzio and climate champion Summer Lee. These Pennsylvania districts are especially important, as increasing turnout will improve the odds that Democrat John Fetterman wins the state’s open Senate seat against right-wing, Trump-supported Mehmet Oz.
This election cycle, turnout is critical. Despite Manchin’s huge drag on the Democratic agenda, Democrats are the party in power and face major headwinds. It’s going to take an all-out effort, but winning is possible.
Together, we can expand Democratic control in the House and Senate and work over the next two years to advance a progressive food, water, and climate agenda.
Help us get out the vote — commit to asking friends and family to head to the polls!