Advocacy groups on Tuesday blasted new efforts by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to strike a deal with the GOP on climate legislation after months of the West Virginia Democrat preventing the House-approved Build Back Better Act from reaching President Joe Biden's desk.
Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) organized a Monday night meeting to "gauge bipartisan interest in a path forward that addresses our nation's climate and energy security needs head-on," a Manchin spokesperson, Sam Runyon, told Bloomberg.
Food & Water Watch managing director of policy Mitch Jones said in a statement Tuesday that "the Build Back Better bill was effectively stymied by Sen. Manchin, who is now apparently part of an effort to craft a bipartisan bill that would be even weaker than the compromise efforts he soundly rejected last year."
While congressional Democrats attempted to use the budget reconciliation process to pass the $1.75 trillion package, it was blocked by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Manchin, who said Monday that "if I can find something bipartisan, we don't need reconciliation."
According to Bloomberg, "Manchin told reporters after the meeting that one area of common ground could be reform of the federal oil and gas leasing process."
The outlet reported:
In addition to reform on permitting, a potential package could include revisions to federal land policy, aid for domestic pipelines, efforts to bolster production of both liquefied natural gas at home and abroad and critical minerals, a person familiar with the matter said. It's possible the changes could be paired with hundreds of billions of dollars in new and expanded tax credits for wind and solar power, nuclear plants, biofuels and advanced energy manufacturing sought by Democrats and the White House and included in earlier iterations of the Build Back Better spending bill, the person said.
Runyon didn't respond to a request for comment about the possible elements of a deal.
In his response to reports about Manchin's negotiations, Jones said that "this approach could only be considered 'climate legislation' if we warp the meaning of that term to include bills that will make climate change worse."
"Instead of letting Manchin and fossil fuel interests define the terms," he added, "the White House and Democratic leadership must push for the solutions we need, not merely what pleases Joe Manchin."
Sierra Club also released a statement Tuesday opposing attempts to compromise with the GOP, declaring that "just as there's no negotiating with arsonists on how much of a building they can burn, there's no negotiating with a party of climate deniers on climate action."
"For decades, the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Washington, D.C. have made their views on climate change abundantly clear: It's much ado about nothing, if it even exists," the group noted, citing some prominent examples—including recent comments from Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who attended Manchin's meeting.
During an NPR interview in January, Cramer said:
The vast majority of people that we work for, that would be our constituents, believe that there is climate change, that it is going the wrong direction in terms of the temperature of the Earth and that they want us to do something about it. My starting point is that it's not near the crisis that the alarmists have made it out to be. But at the same time, nobody is going to solve the problem except humans. Other than God himself, we're the only ones in a position to contribute or to lower our contribution, whatever that might be. And our constituents expect us to do that.
Asked what he says to young people concerned about the future, Cramer said that "what I would tell them is that the Earth has gone through cycles for as long as there's been creation. What I would also tell them is what we can't do is we can't destroy ourselves in the process of trying to save the Earth."
Discussing the Monday meeting with Axios, Cramer said that Manchin, "not surprisingly, likes to be proactive and he wants to see what's possible."
"What's acceptable to them has got to be something that can get 10 of us," he added. "And that's going to be pretty tough."
Sierra Club said that "even when Republicans are capable of recognizing the facts about the climate crisis, they're unwilling to take any action to address it," highlighting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "wasted decades denying the existence of climate change—collecting a small fortune in donations from corporate polluters along the way—only to now have no plan to address the crisis."
"It's past time for President Biden and Democratic leadership to reject this nonsense and deliver on their promises of action on climate, care, jobs, and justice," the group asserted. "Our communities and our planet urgently need investments in transitioning to clean energy, reducing pollution, cutting costs for working families, creating good jobs, and promoting environmental justice."
Sierra Club was among the groups that held "Fight for Our Future" rallies across the country this past weekend.
"Building on this momentum, the Green New Deal Network will place ads in D.C. specifically targeting the Senate and President Biden to deliver on their promises to protect communities from climate, economic, and racial injustices as they return from recess," announced the group, which joined the rallies.
"Fighting for our future is more than just a slogan. It's about demanding that those who we elected actually show up to represent our best interests," said Angelica Zamora, the network's political manager for Arizona. "It is vital that we invest in our planet and people so that we can ensure justice for our communities."
"There is a small window of opportunity to reverse the damage of the climate crisis and provide vital resources that families in Arizona, and across the country, need to thrive," Zamora added. "We need public officials to not waste this moment, but join us in rallying for the security of our future."