On Sunday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) called for conservative coal baron and climate obstructor Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to be removed from his role as the chair of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
In an interview with MSNBC, Omar reminded viewers that progressive lawmakers had warned all throughout negotiations for the Build Back Better Act last year that conservatives like Manchin would never agree to pass any provisions of the Democratic agenda if congressional leaders decoupled Build Back Better from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Omar said that Manchin’s announcement last week that he would oppose climate provisions in this year’s reconciliation bill was “really disappointing” but “not surprising,” adding, “we knew when the Build Back Better agenda was decoupled that this was going to happen.”
“I don’t know why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer still allows for Manchin to be the chair of the energy committee,” she continued. “I don’t know why our party hasn’t decided to make the case and pressure Manchin to do the right thing in advancing the Democratic agenda and the president’s agenda.”
She later added in a tweet that Manchin shouldn’t be in charge of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees energy policy and development and public lands. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) retweeted Omar’s post, signaling her support for the idea.
The congresswoman concluded that Democrats have to realize that “the way that we are dealing with Manchin isn’t working” and that the party “must change course.”
Other Democrats have also suggested that Manchin be replaced as energy committee chairman.
“We have an opportunity to address the climate crisis right now. Senator Manchin’s refusal to act is infuriating. It makes me question why he’s Chair of [Energy and Natural Resources],” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) tweeted in response to Manchin’s announcement. “This is THE moment to meet the challenges that we will be judged by — by our children, grandchildren and future generations. We can’t wait any longer.”
Some Democratic advocates have been calling for Manchin to be removed since last year, when he nearly single-handedly killed the Build Back Better Act. After Manchin said he’d vote against the bill, Democracy For America circulated a petition that garnered nearly 150,000 signatures to replace him on the committee.
That bill was slated to include about $500 billion for climate provisions that climate advocates said were crucial to meeting the U.S.’s quickly-approaching emissions reductions pledge deadlines and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Democrats were hoping to include a pared back version of that funding in this year’s bill, as the party may not have a chance to pass another climate bill for years to come. But Manchin, a coal baron, nixed the funding, all but dooming the planet to more global warming and deadly climate disasters.
Climate advocates have expressed despair in response to Manchin’s announcement. “God my heart is shattered in a million pieces. I can’t even process the inhumanity,” wrote Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash on Twitter. “Again and again, these people look at their children and grandchildren and willingly pass on a violent and cruel world.”