- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2017

Citing his vote confirming Jeff Sessions as attorney general and his outspoken support of President Trump’s fossil fuel-based energy policy, powerful liberal groups on Thursday demanded that Sen. Joe Manchin be removed from his post in Senate Democratic leadership.

Nearly a quarter-million progressives signed a petition, delivered to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday morning, slamming Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, and arguing he no longer represents the values of the party.

“The idea that Manchin is considered a Senate Democratic leader is both morally disturbing and politically toxic for a Democratic Party with millions in the street demanding its members stand united in opposing Trump’s hateful and corrupt agenda,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal PAC Democracy for America, one of the groups that organized the petition. “Joe Manchin has spent the last few months aiding and abetting the Trump administration, removing him from Democratic leadership should be a no brainer.”

Mr. Manchin currently serves as the party’s vice chairman of policy and communications in the Senate. But he’s often clashed with his own party on energy policy and other issues, and has been by far the most supportive Democrat in the chamber when it comes to the Trump administration’s cabinet posts.

He was the only Democrat to vote in favor of Mr. Sessions, now embroiled in a scandal over his conversations with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Manchin also was one of just two Democrats — joining North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp — to vote to approve Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. He was one of four Democrats who voted in favor of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

What’s more, progressives say, Mr. Manchin has been among the strongest proponents of Mr. Trump’s plans to roll back EPA regulations, eliminate the federal government’s focus on climate change, and promote more coal mining and oil-and-gas drilling across the country.

Joe Manchin’s been a tool of the coal industry, blowing the tops off of West Virginia’s mountains, since before entering the Senate. Now he’s a tool of Donald Trump and his terrifying agenda for America,” said Kelly Mears, an official with the activist group Other98, which also helped gather signatures for Thursday’s petition. “Why in the world would Senate Democrats want this DINO (Democrat in name only) on their leadership team?”

For his part, Mr. Manchin has bemoaned the “hardcore left” in American politics. In an interview earlier this week, he said progressives are wrong to try to block Mr. Trump’s every move, likening such a strategy to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s tack during the Obama administration.

“The hardcore left looks back and says, ‘Well, it worked for [the Republicans]. They have both the House and the Senate and they have the presidency. So, why don’t we try the same thing, since it worked for them?” Mr. Manchin said during an interview Wednesday on conservative Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “Well, that didn’t work for the American people, I can assure you, and that’s not what they want. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

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