Manchin Hosts Another Bipartisan Energy Meeting, Fueling Fears About Dems’ Plans

Manchin Hosts Another Bipartisan Energy Meeting, Fueling Fears About Dems’ Plans

Al Drago/Pool via Reuters

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) convened another bipartisan meeting of lawmakers Monday night to discuss a package of climate and energy measures he’s looking to put together, even as some fellow Democrats reportedly have raised concerns that the effort may hurt the chances of passing a party-line budget reconciliation package containing portions of their economic agenda.

Manchin’s meeting, his second in the span of a week, reportedly drew four Republicans: Sens. Bill Cassidy (LA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Dan Sullivan (AK) and Mitt Romney (UT). Democratic attendees included Sens. Tom Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), John Hickenlooper (CO), Mark Kelly (AZ), Brian Schatz (HI) and Mark Warner (VA), as well as Rep. Ro Khanna (CA).

“We want to make sure that we have the reliability that fossil [fuel] has given us and can continue to give us and must continue to give us as we basically promote and invest in the new technologies and innovation that’s going to take us to the next level,” Manchin said, according to The Hill.

The group discussed a range of climate and energy policy options, including steps to boost production of critical minerals and ways to reform an environmental review process for major projects that Republicans have criticized. Cassidy told reporters afterward that he promoted the idea of a carbon border adjustment, which would impose a tariff on products from countries with weaker climate regulations — though Cassidy emphasized that his plan was different than a carbon tax.

“Right now the current system incentivizes countries like China and India and Vietnam to not pay attention to emissions because you can produce a good cheaper by not paying,” Cassidy told The Hill. “But if we had a border carbon adjustment, it would help our workers, help our industry, incentivize them to do it right.”

What’s next: Politico reports that, for all the ideas being bandied about “there's no sign that any of it would transform into legislation anytime soon” and that meeting attendees “didn’t appear any closer to outlining even a sketch of a potential bipartisan deal.”

Manchin reportedly acknowledged that reaching a bipartisan energy and climate deal would be “much more complicated” than the bipartisan infrastructure package he helped put together last year. The Washington Post adds that “it's unclear whether more senators will join the ongoing discussions from either side of the aisle. And climate advocates worry that time is slipping away to clinch a deal on President Biden's stalled reconciliation bill, which contains much more ambitious provisions aimed at preventing catastrophic global warming.”

Is a bipartisan deal even possible? It’s highly uncertain whether Manchin’s meetings will produce any results, and climate activists, skeptical that 10 Republicans will sign on to an effective climate plan, worry that the discussions are eating up valuable time as Democrats have just weeks left to try to pull together a legislative package of their own before election season kicks into high gear.

Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana told Politico that he figured the Manchin meetings were “for show” and that there was little chance of attracting the 10 Republicans needed to get any plan through the Senate. Another unnamed Senate Republican told Politico that the entire effort seemed geared toward undermining another Democratic push for a reconciliation bill.

That’s precisely what climate activists fear. “These bipartisan negotiations are a sham,” Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, told the Post. “If we allow bad-faith Republican tactics to con the American people out of their last best chance to act on climate change, it will be a monumental failure of leadership that will be remembered for generations to come.”