Correspondent in New York
As for the democrats they managed to recover the Senate In last year’s elections they immediately looked at at least a Democrat from their bench: Joe Manchin, Senator for West Virginia.
They controlled the White House and, with slim majorities, both chambers of the Congress. But his ability to control someone like Manchin was highly dubious, and the tall, mellow-looking senator has not disappointed: As a legislative ‘Grinch’, he has ruined Christmas for the Democrats with his opposition to the socio-climatic spending plan of Joe Biden.
To understand Manchin, you have to know where he and his money come from. Represents West Virginia, a state of strong Republican implantation, dominated by mining basins in
crisis and that appears in the last positions of purchasing power, education or health in the US.
Of all the political representatives at the state level – from local administrators like the governor or attorney general to legislators going to Washington – Manchin is the only Democrat. His affiliation to the party has not prevented him from being a politician of great popularity in the state: he was its secretary of state between 2001 and 2005, its governor between 2005 and 2010 and one of its two senators from 2010 until now.
Harm to the coal industry
Manchin’s opposition to the spending plan has a lot to do with the items dedicated to energy transformation – about $ 550 billion, 25% of the plan – which in his opinion are too ambitious. A good part of those funds go to subsidies for renewables, which hurts the coal industry. Therefore, in Manchin’s vision, a Virginia Occidental. But also in his own pocket: the senator has coal management companies – now managed by his son and without his decision-making capacity – for which he has earned millions of dollars in recent years. And, in addition, he is the congressman who has received the most donations from the fossil fuel industry.
But not everything comes down to energy transformation. Manchin aims to be a stone in the shoe in other reformist plans of the left wing of the Democrats, such as ending the ‘filibuster’ – the demand for a reinforced majority in the Senate that makes many proposals by the Democrats impossible -, the expansion of the Supreme court to dilute its conservative majority or the approval of a new law on voting rights to protect access against restrictions sought by Republicans.