Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) had harsh words for right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) on Tuesday after the coal-funded multimillionaire announced last week that he would oppose congressional action on climate, likely locking U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for at least the next few years, if not decades.
“Manchin has paused all action for the United States to act on climate for the last four years, so I don’t think he has any authority to speak on climate for the rest of our term here,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent.
She also said that President Joe Biden should declare an emergency over the climate crisis, as the White House has hinted he may do. If Biden chooses to do so, and he uses the declaration to take meaningful actions like stopping offshore drilling, it could be a major step in combating the climate crisis, advocates say. Ocasio-Cortez called making an emergency declaration “an essential step,” and added that Biden should clarify exactly what he would use the declaration for.
Manchin’s climate obstruction has drawn ire from climate experts and progressive lawmakers, who warn that Manchin has thrown away crucial time that the country — and the world — needs to prevent the most devastating effects of the climate crisis.
Indeed, Manchin’s announcement comes as wildfire season is lengthening in the West, hundreds of people are dying due a major heatwave in the U.K., and large swaths of the world — including his own West Virginia hometown — are facing extreme floods. Experts predict that weather disasters will only get worse, as the U.S. and the rest of the world are slated to miss their climate-related goals by miles and climate feedback loops are rapidly multiplying the deadly crises caused by fossil fuels.
Progressives say that Manchin’s obstruction shouldn’t come without consequences. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) said on Sunday that the senator should be removed from his role as the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees energy legislation and public lands in the U.S.
“I don’t know why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer still allows for Manchin to be the chair of the energy committee,” Omar said on MSNBC. “I don’t know why our party hasn’t decided to make the case and pressure Manchin to do the right thing.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) also condemned Manchin’s actions over the weekend, pointing out that Manchin is loyal only to Big Oil and other rich campaign donors. “This is a guy who is a major recipient of fossil fuel money, a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires,” he said. “In my humble opinion, Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country — not working families in West Virginia or America.”
Manchin has waved off criticisms, telling reporters on Tuesday in response to questions about Biden’s potential emergency declaration that people should wait and “see what the Congress does. The Congress needs to act.” Of course, Manchin himself is Congress’s most significant roadblock to taking action, along with the GOP.
Climate advocates are also calling on Biden to block a permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry fracked gas through West Virginia and Virginia. Manchin has advocated for the project, which experts have estimated will lead to about an extra 90 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere each year — the equivalent of 26 coal plants or 19 million cars.
Even before Manchin’s announcement, Biden was reportedly weighing approving the pipeline and allowing an extensive amount of drilling on public lands in order to woo the senator, majorly frustrating climate advocates who said that approving fossil fuel projects would undermine the very climate proposals that the White House was trying to secure funding for.