Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sens. Mark Kelly and Joe Manchin speak at a hearing

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) talk at the end of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup on May 27, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Manchin, Kelly Join GOP in Passing Motion to Bar Biden From Declaring Climate Emergency

"Our political leadership is out to kill most of us," lamented one climate justice advocate.

Jake Johnson

Two right-wing Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Kelly of Arizona, crossed the aisle Wednesday to help Republicans approve a motion aimed at barring President Joe Biden from declaring a climate emergency, a step that green groups have been pressuring him to take since his first day in office.

The nonbinding motion, sponsored by Sen. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) and approved by a vote of 49-47, states that Biden "cannot use climate change as the basis to declare a national emergency." House and Senate lawmakers will consider the motion as part of their efforts to finalize legislation packed with subsidies to profitable microchip corporations.

"This is an outrageous betrayal...
Shame on you."

It's unclear whether lawmakers will ultimately include the climate emergency language in the final bill, but environmentalists voiced outrage at the motion's passage as Manchin and Republicans continue to obstruct desperately needed congressional action to slash greenhouse gas emissions and bolster renewable energy production.

"It's disgraceful that every Republican senator thinks that the greatest threat to our planet and our children's futures shouldn’t be treated like the emergency it is," Jean Su, Energy Justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Common Dreams. "This vote shows how terrified the fossil fuel industry is of President Biden using his inherent powers to stem fossil fuels, and the stranglehold that industry has over the Republican Party, not to mention Joe Manchin."

A separate motion instructing lawmakers to reject provisions that "prohibit development of an all-of-the-above energy portfolio"—which would include oil and gas production—also sailed through Wednesday by voice vote.

"Our political leadership is out to kill most of us," Basav Sen, director of the Climate Justice Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, said in response to the vote. "Every branch of [the federal government] (executive, Congress, courts) is rotten to the core."

"Manchin shouldn't be voting on climate/energy issues, based on his glaring and obvious conflict of interest," Sen added, alluding to the West Virginia Democrat's stake in his family's coal empire. "If we had a civilized system of government, he would be investigated for corruption, not heading the Senate energy committee."

Kai Newkirk, a progressive activist based in Arizona, focused his ire on Kelly, who was a NASA astronaut before entering politics.

"An astronaut who's seen the planet from outer space voting to remove one of the only tools we have to confront the climate crisis that isn't blocked by the filibuster and Manchin's corruption?" Newkirk wrote on Twitter. "This is an outrageous betrayal, Sen. Kelly. Shame on you."

As the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) noted in a February report, a climate emergency declaration would empower Biden to take a number of steps to combat the planetary crisis without needing the approval of Congress, including immediately halting crude oil exports and boosting green energy manufacturing.

"Congress enacted emergency powers to allow the executive branch greater flexibility to respond to extraordinary events," the report states. "The climate emergency is the pinnacle of extraordinary events faced in our lifetimes. Biden should lawfully use emergency powers to address this existential threat."

This story has been updated to include comment from Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Total Devastation' as Hurricane Ian Tears Through Florida

"Always remember that climate breakdown is only getting started," said one climate scientist. "It will keep getting worse so long as the fossil fuel industry exists. Cause, effect."

Jake Johnson ·


Truss' Tories Plan to Slash Public Spending While Clinging to Chaos-Causing Tax Cuts

"When the IMF tells you, 'hang on guys, this is going to be so bad for inequality it needs a rethink,' you've got a serious problem," one U.K. activist said of the new mini-budget.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders, Kaine Hail US Senate's Passage of Brazil Election Resolution

"It is important for the people of Brazil to know we're on their side, on the side of democracy," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "With passage of this resolution, we are sending that message."

Brett Wilkins ·


Highland Park Victims Sue Gun-Maker, Stores Over Negligence and Deceptive Practices

Lawyers argued that the "shooter was the type of a young consumer susceptible to Smith & Wesson's deceptive and unfair marketing, and was enabled by his father."

Julia Conley ·


NC Dems Plead for Cash as Beasley Deadlocked With GOP Opponent in Decisive US Senate Race

Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley has a one-point lead, but Trump-backed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is getting more support from the Republican Party.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo