The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Some Reasons Why Joe Manchin Voted No on Build Back Better
Dear Diary. The climate world is still reeling from the fact that Joe Manchin is still a no on the game changing Build Back Better bill. This morning there are glimmers of hope because at least the senator is still talking with Democratic colleagues, so negotiations do go on.
Our government is structured such that just one person can hold up their own party’s legislative agenda under the U.S. Constitution in our Senate if we have a 50-50 split, with any ties going to the Vice President for votes. If just one or two mire Democratic senators had been elected, we would not be having this problem. We are all praying that somehow Manchin sees the light and will consider supporting at least a revised version of Build Back Better.
So why exactly is Joe Manchin holding his thumb down on BBB? My thoughts and those of many others turn to corruption with vested interests in fossil fuel companies and other industries laying the senator large sums of money for his vote. Joe’s reasons are a little more complex, apparently. Here is what we gave this morning from the New York Times:
Good morning. Joe Manchin’s history suggested he could vote for Build Back Better. Why didn’t he?
Joe Manchin this month at a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Until this week, Joe Manchin tended to side with his fellow Democrats on major questions of economic policy.
During the Trump administration, Manchin voted against both the attempts to repeal Obamacare and a tax cut skewed toward the rich. Earlier this year, he insisted on changes to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus rescue bill, but still provided a deciding vote for it.
Manchin’s breaches with his party have tended to come on issues other than economic legislation, like abortion, voting rights and Supreme Court confirmations. This pattern makes sense, too: Manchin’s West Virginia constituents, like most Americans, largely agree with the Democratic Party on economic policy, while being to the right of the party on many social issues.
Biden’s Build Back Better program looked like the kind of bill that Manchin would support. Its provisions are generally popular, polls show, and Manchin has said that he wants Biden to be a successful president. Manchin could have shored up his image as a moderate by demanding a few high-profile changes to the bill — and then voting for it.
Instead, he went on Fox News this past weekend and announced his opposition. The announcement led to a public spat between Manchin and the White House and has left many Democrats feeling despondent about Biden’s agenda.
What happened? There is no simple answer, but I’ll walk through five main possibilities in today’s newsletter. As is often the case, the full answer probably involves more than one explanation.
1. Face value
Agreeing with other Democrats on economic policy most of the time isn’t the same thing as agreeing all of the time. And Manchin made specific, repeated objections to Build Back Better: that its spending would aggravate inflation; that it included temporary programs that hid the bill’s true effect on the deficit; that some benefits (like the child tax credit) were too generous.
“I cannot accept our economy, or, basically, our society, moving towards an entitlement mentality,” he said in September.
Last week, shortly before he announced his opposition to the bill, The Wall Street Journal editorial board chided Democrats for dismissing Manchin’s concerns rather than addressing them: “His colleagues’ response has been to bull ahead as if Mr. Manchin doesn’t mean it.” Evidently, he did.
Reasons to doubt this explanation: One, the bill might have reduced inflation — by lowering drug prices, building new housing units and luring people back into the work force. Two, some congressional Democrats doubt Manchin was serious about making a deal, saying that he never made a solid offer.
2. Class consciousness
Manchin is a rich man, and he spends a lot of time with other rich people. One of his daughters has been a pharmaceutical C.E.O. and his son an energy executive. In the 1990s, Manchin even served on the board of a pro-business, anti-regulation lobbying group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, as Dan Kaufman explained in The New Yorker.
Given this history, maybe it’s not surprising that Manchin blocked a bill that would have raised taxes on the wealthy to pay for new social programs. After he announced his opposition, Bloomberg ran a story titled, “Super-Rich Americans Feel Relief as Tax Hikes Are Canceled for Now.”
Reason for doubt: Manchin has defied the wealthy’s interests before — voting against the Trump tax cuts, for instance — and seems ready to do so again. During talks over Build Back Better, he agreed to an increase in the corporate tax, only for Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to kill it.
3. Climate and coal
Manchin’s wealth stems partly from a West Virginia coal business his family helped found, and he has been a longtime ally of the industry. It opposed many of the climate provisions in Build Back Better, which would have subsidized clean energy to help it compete against fossil fuels.
When explaining his opposition to the bill this week, Manchin alluded to its threat to the coal industry and described one of the bill’s goals as “revamping the entire energy policies for our country.” (My colleagues Jonathan Weisman and Lisa Friedman have detailed Manchin’s fossil fuel ties.)
Reasons for doubt: Manchin signaled that he was comfortable with some climate provisions, including them in a recent counteroffer to the White House. If anything, his opposition to Biden’s newly generous child tax credit seemed stronger than his opposition to several climate policies.
4. Democratic disarray
Through the Obama and Trump presidencies, the Democratic Party remained strikingly united on many issues. But Democratic unity has frayed.
Moderates believe progressives are deluding themselves about American public opinion on abortion, guns, immigration, race, religion, socialism and more. Progressives think moderates are deluding themselves about the threat that the Republican Party poses to democracy. Both sides have a point.
During the debate over Build Back Better, progressive activists tried to make life unpleasant for moderate politicians, including Manchin, staging protests outside their homes or harassing them in public. Against this backdrop — and Biden’s 44 percent approval rating — you can understand why Manchin might not be feeling much party loyalty.
Reason for doubt: Politics is always a tough business, and Manchin is savvy enough to understand that his left-wing critics bolster his moderate image in West Virginia.
5. Performative politics
Consider what Manchin’s constituents are hearing this week: Their senior senator single-handedly humbled a Democratic president. That’s useful P.R. for a man who represents a state where Trump won 69 percent of the vote — and whom people on Capitol Hill increasingly expect to run for re-election in 2024, according to my colleague Carl Hulse.
The last potential explanation for Manchin’s comments is that they were a mix of performance and negotiation. Next month, Manchin and Democrats can still come together to pass a scaled-down bill, perhaps with a less generous child tax credit and without the expiring programs that Manchin considers to be budgetary gimmicks. He can then take credit for its more moderate approach. “Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done,” a smiling Biden said at the White House yesterday.
That outcome would be consistent with Manchin’s record on economic policy.
Reasons for doubt: The first four explanations in today’s newsletter.
Here are more climate and weather news from Wednesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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