‘Don’t ask a question, I’m not talking’: Manchin responds to Biden’s possible climate emergency declaration

‘Let’s see what the Congress does. The Congress needs to act,’ Senator Manchin also said on Tuesday, after blocking the Democrats’ voting path to pass climate bill

Eric Garcia,Ethan Freedman,Louise Boyle
Tuesday 19 July 2022 21:45 BST
Sen. Joe Manchin Won't Support Dems Climate or Tax Provisions

Senator Joe Manchin refused to answer questions today on reports that President Joe Biden is considering a national climate emergency declaration after he has stood in the way of key legislation to tackle the crisis.

When asked about a potential emergency declaration, Senator Manchin told The Independent: “Just get out of my way, if you will. Okay, I’m going to go vote.

“Stop. Don’t ask a question, I’m not talking.”

Mr Manchin told senior Democrats last week that he would not support their attempt to push an economic package through Congress this month, which included billions of dollars to fight the climate crisis. The bill only has Democratic support, making the West Virginian’s vote critical in passing the 50-50 split Senate.

When asked about a climate emergency declaration by ABC News on Tuesday, Mr Manchin also responded: “Let’s see what the Congress does. The Congress needs to act.”

An emergency declaration would allow the president to tap federal resources to tackle the climate crisis which is causing waves of deadly heat, ferocious wildfires and destructive storms across the US. While the declaration may be under consideration, the timeline for any announcements remains unclear.

The Washington Post reported late on Monday that Mr Biden could declare a national climate emergency as soon as this week. But the president apparently does not plan to do so during a visit to Massachusetts on Wednesday, where he will make a speech about the climate crisis, Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.

Several of Senator Manchin’s colleagues on Tuesday stressed the importance of some kind of climate action.

Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told The Independent that he wants to “keep the door open” to getting legislation passed, but added that the president should indicate that he’s willing to take action.

“It’s important for there to be a clear signal that the Commander-in-Chief is ready to use his powers on the climate crisis,” Mr Markey said.

“I’m confident that the President is ultimately ready to do whatever it takes in order to deal with this crisis,” he added.

Senator Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, said that Congress needs to “pass legislation to reduce the amount of carbon we put in the atmosphere”.

But he noted that the president also has a role to play. “We’ll see what he does,” he added.

New York Congresswoman Alexandrio Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent on Tuesday that declaring a climate emergency would be an “essential step” and slammed Senator Manchin’s actions.

“Manchin has paused all action for the United States to act on climate for the last four years”, she said. “So I don’t think he has any authority to speak on climate for the rest of our term here.”

If President Biden were to declare a climate emergency, it would open up a range of executive powers to cut US emissions and accelerate the country’s shift to renewable energy.

Democrats had aimed to fund major, climate projects through President Biden’s signature, party-line Build Back Better Act. However Mr Manchin, a centrist Democrat who has taken more campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry than any other senator according to The New York Times, doomed that bill after negotiations broke down in December.

Since assuming full control of Congress and the White House in the 2020 elections, Democrats have failed to pass significant climate legislation, though some money from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill will go to environmental and clean energy projects.

An independent assessment from the influential thinktank Rhodium Group last week revealed that the US is on track to reduce its carbon footprint by 24-35 per cent by 2030 – significantly short of President Biden’s goal, and the country’s promise under the global Paris Agreement.

The US has pledged to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in half by the end of the decade, from 2005 levels.

Over 100 million Americans are under heat advisories or warnings this week as temperatures in parts of the country soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). There are currently 85 large fires burning across 13 US states, with more than 3 million acres destroyed.

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