Manchin shuts down climate and tax talks, scales back national plan

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat of West Virginia, halted talks Thursday aimed at salvaging key parts of President Biden’s agenda, telling his party leaders he would not support funding for climate programs or energy or raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.

The move by Mr. Manchin, a conservative-leaning Democrat whose opposition effectively blocked Mr. Biden’s economic package in an equally divided Senate, dealt a devastating blow to his party’s efforts to put in place a broad net of social security, a climate and tax package.

In recent months, Democrats had narrowed their ambitions to such a plan to win over Mr. Manchin, hoping he would agree to back even a fraction of the sweeping initiative they once envisioned. His abrupt change seemed to crush those aspirations.

The change capped weeks of painstaking negotiations to cobble together a package that could win Mr Manchin’s backing. It came seven months after West Virginia abruptly walked away from the talks and rejected a much larger plan.

“Political headlines are meaningless to the millions of Americans struggling to afford groceries and gas as inflation soars to 9.1%,” said Sam Runyon, spokesperson for Mr. Manchin. “Senator Manchin believes it is time for leaders to put aside political agendas, reassess and adapt to the economic realities facing the country to avoid taking actions that fuel the fire of inflation. .”

“Senator Manchin did not leave the table,” she added.

As of Thursday morning, Democrats had remained cautiously optimistic that a deal could be reached, provided they heed Manchin’s repeated calls to tackle the national debt, tax reform and drug prices .

The Washington Post previously reported conversation detailswhich were confirmed by two people briefed on the discussion.

Because Democrats hold the Senate by a simple 50-50 majority, Mr. Manchin was able to effectively wield a veto over the domestic policy package, which the party had planned to put forward as part of a special budget process. accelerated which would allow him to circumvent a filibuster and pass to the simple majority. As Democrats brace for losses in the midterm elections this fall, the package could be the party’s last chance to enact substantial spending and tax legislation while it still holds the White House and both chambers. of Congress.

By rejecting any provision on climate and energy, Mr. Manchin appears to have single-handedly shattered Mr. Biden’s ambitious climate agenda and what would have been the biggest federal investment in American history to deal with the consequences. of climate change.

His decision came just days after a report showed prices soared 9.1% in June, heightening existing fears about inflation and rising costs for everyday Americans. But while Mr Manchin has long sounded the alarm over inflation and the national debt, he has also maintained his openness to overhauling the tax code, a stance he appears to have reversed.

That stunned Democratic officials who had worked to win Mr. Manchin’s vote. As recently as Friday, Democrats said they had coalesced around a plan to use funds raised from raising taxes on some high-income Americans to expand the solvency of a key fund of Medicare.

But it was particularly devastating for those who had championed the climate and energy provisions. In calls to various climate activists on Thursday evening, Mr Schumer and his team appeared shocked and said they believed until hours before a deal was still possible, a person who spoke to him said. is interviewed by Mr. Schumer.

Without congressional action, it will be impossible to meet Mr. Biden’s goal of roughly halving US emissions by the end of this decade. This goal aimed to hold the planet to stabilize the climate at around 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.

The Earth has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Lawmakers and activists who have led the charge of action to fight climate change expressed outrage on Thursday night.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat my disappointment here, especially since almost every issue related to the climate and energy space has been resolved,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and chairman of the committee. Senate of Finance. “This is our last chance to prevent the most catastrophic and costly effects of climate change. We cannot go back in another decade and prevent hundreds of billions – even trillions – of economic damage and undo the inevitable human toll.

“If we can’t move forward as we had hoped, we need to salvage as much of this package as possible,” he added. “The phrase that failure is not an option is overused, but failure really isn’t an option here.”

Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has advised congressional Democrats on climate legislation, sobbed Thursday night as she described the months of work she and other activists, scientists and legislative staff had invested in the negotiations.

“The stakes are so high,” she said. “It’s just infuriating that he condemns our own children.”

Many were seething with anger at Mr. Manchin. They criticized him for chaining negotiators, while watering down a package that at one point would have been enough to drastically cut emissions and also adding fossil fuel projects that ran counter to climate goals. In the last few days of talks, tax breaks for clean energy had been cut and Mr Manchin had worked to include approving offshore oil and gas leasing and allowing a fossil fuel project in his state, congressional aides said.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, a nonprofit group, said Mr Manchin condemned future generations.

“There really are no words, at least words suitable for printing in The New York Times, to say how appalled and outraged we are,” she said.