Joe Manchin
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is seen after the Senate luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on November 29, 2022.
(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

After Years of Tanking Climate Action and Anti-Poverty Measures, Manchin Announces Exit From Senate

"During his time in office, Manchin served the fossil fuel industry and lined his pockets with the payoff," said one critic.

Progressives on Thursday were unsurprised to hear that right-wing Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has decided not to seek reelection next year, following recent polling that showed him 13 points behind Republican Gov. Jim Justice—but expressed frustration over the conservative senator's legacy of tanking the Democratic Party's agenda as leaders insisted he was the only Democrat who could possibly win the approval of voters in his home state of West Virginia.

After Manchin released a video announcing he will retire from the Senate seat he's held since 2010, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (D) noted that economic justice and rights advocates have long been told they "had to sacrifice every progressive reform so we could hold on to a blue seat in West Virginia."

"Now, he's vacating the seat," said Turner.

The senator has outraged progressives in recent years by refusing to join his party in backing broadly popular reforms. He made numerous demands to reduce the anti-poverty and climate provisions in President Joe Biden's signature Build Back Better Act in 2021 before finally killing the bill over its inclusion of the expanded child tax credit—a program that more than 300,000 children in his own state benefited from before it expired but that Manchin falsely claimed would be used by parents to buy drugs.

He also joined Republicans in 2022 to block legislation codifying abortion rights months before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and helped the GOP push to include language in a debt limit deal this year that would expedite the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in his state. Local advocates have denounced the project, which could lead to fossil fuel emissions equivalent to dozens of coal-fired power plants.

The state, said Denali Nalamalapu, communications director of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition, is now witnessing "firsthand the repercussions of Sen. Joe Manchin's insatiable greed."

"During his time in office, Manchin served the fossil fuel industry and lined his pockets with the payoff," said Nalamalapu. "While he parades around his 'victory' in fast-tracking MVP construction, his real climate legacy is the mortal threat to Appalachians and the planet posed by the unnecessary, reckless, fracked gas project."

Nalamalapu expressed hope that West Virginians may ultimately be represented by "a climate champion who will serve their interests in the broader global shift towards a renewable future, not a robber baron who scurries away once he has maxed out his political fossil fuel profits."

Manchin suggested his political career may not be over as he said he will be "traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together"—which former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro translated as: "Stay tuned. I want to run for president."

Progressive strategist Sawyer Hackett noted that Manchin's objection to the expanded child tax credit was a significant factor when the child poverty rate shot up last year, following an historic reduction that was attributed to the initiative.

"Not a great legacy to kickstart a long-shot bid for president," said Hackett.

Daniel Nichanian, editor-in-chief of Bolts, said that without Manchin, Democrats must now ensure they hold onto Senate seats in a number of states in order to maintain their slim majority.

But with Manchin likely to lose to Justice if he had sought reelection, Nichanian added, "it's a stretch to describe Manchin's retirement as a huge change to the Senate math for 2024."

Author and co-founder Bill McKibben said Manchin's exit marks the start of another race: "to see who will replace him as the biggest collector of campaign cash from the oil and gas industry."

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