Joe Manchin is one of the two Democratic senators standing in the way of a historic bill that would expand the social safety net and address the climate crisis. Billionaire Trump donor Nelson Peltz says he’s been calling to encourage him every week.
Peltz, founder and CEO of Trian Partners, said Wednesday on CNBC that he calls the West Virginia senator weekly to cheer on the his efforts to slash programs in the proposed legislation. Manchin has said that wants the bill to include a maximum of $1.5 trillion in new spending, which is $2 trillion less than originally proposed. His obstinance has drawn the ire of fellow Democrats.
“I think it’s dead-on fiscally irresponsible for Senator Manchin to refuse to raise revenue,” Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) said last month. “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.”
One such prominent donor is Peltz, who has given to Manchin and hosted fundraisers for Trump that cost as much as $580,000 per couple to attend.
“Joe is the most important guy in D.C. Maybe the most important guy in America today,” said Peltz, who has claimed the Jan. 6 insurrection made him regret supporting Trump. “I call him every week and say, ‘Joe, you’re doing great. Stay tough. Stay tough, buddy.’ He’s phenomenal.”
Peltz said he is happy that Manchin, with whom he’s been friends for more than a decade, is “keeping our elected officials somewhere in the middle,” adding, “anywhere from center-right to center-left works for me.” He complained that other lawmakers are “pushing us to the extremes … where it’s uncomfortable.”
“This is still capitalism, this is not socialism,” Peltz said. “This is still a meritocracy, and we better keep it that way.”
Manchin has taken issue with many of the provisions in the social spending bill, including extending the current child tax credit, insisting on means-testing and work requirements so that only those working and making less than $60,000 a year would qualify. According to an analysis by the Niskanen Center, adding only the income restriction could mean that 37.4 million children would lose the federal aid they’re currently receiving. In Manchin’s home state of West Virginia, it would deny benefits to 189,000 children, cutting the number of recipients by 58 percent. That number doesn’t even account for how many would lose government assistance if the bill included a work requirement. Democrats and the Biden administration have argued that giving families an ongoing child tax credit would help pay for child care, basic needs and allow families to be more financially stable.
Manchin has also stood against parts of the bill that would try to address the climate crisis by investing in green energy. It just so happens that Manchin has a significant personal stake in the coal industry. As The Guardian reported in July, Manchin owns as much as $5 million in stock in Enersystems, a private coal brokerage he founded in 1988 that his son now runs. According to financial disclosures, Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has earned a total of $5,211,154 in dividends from Enersystems, an average of more than half a million dollars per year.
But because Democrats need Manchin’s support to pass the bill through reconciliation, they have reportedly been dropping certain provisions of the legislation, including free community college and, to please Manchin, a clean electricity program that would replace coal- and gas-fired power plants.