Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has come under fire lately as one of two moderate Democrats who have signaled hesitancy in supporting certain parts of President Biden’s legislative agenda. During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Manchin responded to accusations from progressives that he is unsupportive because he is heavily influenced by corporate lobbyists.
On Sunday, host Dana Bash asked the senator about a tweet sent by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) where she claimed Manchin engaged in “weekly huddles with Exxon” and that he “gives lobbyists [his] pen to write so-called bipartisan fossil fuels bills.”
“Is it true that you have weekly meetings with Exxon and other lobbyists for fossil fuels?” Bash asked.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Manchin replied. “And you ask them if they have ever — no, they don’t — weekly meetings, I don’t.”
“It’s just false?” Bash clarified.
Manchin hedged a bit, responding that he keeps his door open for all but denying the weekly Exxon meetings.
“I keep my door open for everybody. It’s totally false,” he said.
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Although Manchin is in favor of a bipartisan infrastructure bill, he wrote in an op-ed last week that the party should take a “strategic pause” on its planned $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget bill. Included in the budget are measures that did not make it into the infrastructure package, including initiatives to address climate change and make childcare more affordable.
Democrats hope to pass the budget bill through the reconciliation process, as that is one way they can do so without any Republican votes. But they’ll need all Democrats in the Senate to support it to be successful, meaning Manchin would likely be the deciding vote.
Although Manchin has said his opposition to the bill is fiscal responsibility — he told Bash he wanted the bill to be closer to $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion — another progressive Democrat, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), said last week on MSNBC that it’s actually more irresponsible not to pass the bill, which the White House has said will not add to the deficit.
“I think it’s dead-on fiscally irresponsible for Senator Manchin to refuse to raise revenue,” Porter said. “And at the same time out of the other side of his mouth — maybe the side of his mouth that he uses to talk to his corporate donors — complain that we can’t pay for the things that American families desperately need.”
Manchin said that he doesn’t see the “urgency” in passing the reconciliation bill by Democrats’ tentative September 27 deadline, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is authoring the bill, pushed back at that idea.
“But there is a sense of urgency,” Sanders said. “And a sense of urgency is that we live in a country today where the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well, while working-class people are struggling all over this country.”