- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 15, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin III is facing intense political pressure in West Virginia to oppose his party’s gargantuan spending package of health care, family aid and anti-poverty programs, testing where the allegiance lies for one of the chamber’s most conservative Democrats.

The pressure is rising as Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, hopes to secure an agreement on the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” spending plan before lawmakers leave Washington in August.

Because the plan is unlikely to garner Republican support, the only hope for its passage is via budget reconciliation. That process allows spending bills to avert the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority of 51 votes. Because it takes just one Democrat to kill the deal, Mr. Manchin, who represents the deep-red state of West Virginia, is seen as the likeliest to flip.

To increase the chance, advocacy groups, electoral rivals and even some political allies are upping the pressure.

In arguing for why Mr. Manchin should oppose the package, many point to its cost, clean electricity provisions and guarantee of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“Sen. Manchin and I don’t always agree on policy, but we both love West Virginia,” said Rep. Carol Miller, West Virginia Republican. “This package is a liberal laundry list that won’t create more high-paying jobs for our state and will instead saddle our children and grandchildren with the cost. It will also make America less competitive in the global marketplace.”

Mrs. Miller, in particular, argues that new federal spending in the plan will add to the inflation Americans are experiencing when they pay for goods and services.

Rising costs and shrinking purchasing power, she said, could prove devastating for West Virginia, where per capita income lags behind the national average.

“I have every hope that Sen. Manchin will oppose this bill and stand up for West Virginia,” Mrs. Miller said.

Some say immigration provisions in the bill could undercut West Virginia’s workforce. Although details remain sparse, the deal will include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are farmworkers, have temporary protected status or were brought to the U.S. as minors, Democrats say.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform is mobilizing to defeat the package’s immigration component. It released a poll Thursday showing that 52% of West Virginia voters oppose any amnesty for illegal aliens.

Furthermore, 55% of the state’s voters said they would be unlikely to support Mr. Manchin‘s reelection in 2024 if he votes on party lines for a pathway to citizenship.

“The voters are very clear,” said Dan Stein, the organization’s president. “Any senator who yields to pressure from their party’s radical fringe and resorts to legislative trickery to gain amnesty for millions of illegal aliens does so at his or her political peril.”

Mr. Manchin, who has supported past immigration reform efforts, did not respond to requests from The Washington Times.

More than economics or immigration, the mandate for a 100% carbon-free electricity standard is pressuring Mr. Manchin to vote against the deal. The policy would require electricity producers to phase out fossil fuels in favor of solar and wind energy.

Coal and natural gas, which are plentiful in West Virginia and key to the state’s economy, would be decimated by the move. The two resources produce more than 60% of all electricity consumed in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration.

Mr. Manchin has called the idea of removing fossil fuels from the electrical grid “disturbing” and unrealistic.

“If my friends and colleagues think they can eliminate their way to a cleaner environment, it’ll never happen,” he said.

Despite the rhetoric, the senator has refused to rule out voting against the package even if the clean electricity mandate remains intact. Both allies and rivals back home are concerned.

“In West Virginia, our biggest concern is ensuring that the Senate Democrats do not insert a so-called radical clean electricity standard into the bill,” said state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican who challenged Mr. Manchin for reelection in 2018. “This would likely destroy West Virginia’s economy. We are rooting for Sen. Manchin to strongly oppose such a measure as it would be so detrimental to our workforce.”

The United Mine Workers of America is publicly renewing its opposition to a carbon-free electricity standard. The union, which is powerful in West Virginia, has long been a supporter of Mr. Manchin.

“We do not support a clean electricity standard because it will obviously hasten the demise of coal-fired power and our members’ jobs,” said Phil Smith, the union’s director of governmental affairs.

Mr. Smith said he is hopeful that any “language that has the effect of outlawing the use of fossil fuels, including coal, will get past” Mr. Manchin.

It is unclear whether the pressure campaign will work.

In the past, Mr. Manchin has shown a willingness to stand with his party in high-stake votes despite the opinions of home-state voters. Most recently, he voted to convict President Trump in both of his impeachment trials.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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