Sen. Joe Manchin on Saturday slammed President Joe Biden after he called for coal plants across the US to be shuttered, saying Biden’s remarks are “outrageous and divorced from reality” and suggesting it’s “time he learn a lesson.”
Biden, while speaking at a stop in Carlsbad, California, on Friday about the CHIPS and Science Act, said, “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar also providing tax credit to help families buy energy-efficient appliances.”
Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has longtime ties to the coal industry, seized on the comments in a statement on Saturday, calling them “not only outrageous and divorced from reality, they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs.”
“Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believes he does not understand the need to have an all in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure. It seems his positions change depending on the audience and the politics of the day. Politicizing our nation’s energy policies would only bring higher prices and more pain for the American people,” Manchin continued.
It’s not unusual for Manchin, a moderate Democrat who has refused to say whether he thinks Biden deserves a second term in office, to criticize Biden’s agenda, and his reluctance at times to support Democratic initiatives has prevented the President from achieving some legislative goals. But Saturday’s statement is an extraordinary rebuke by a sitting US senator of his party’s leader, and serves to illustrate the ongoing tension between the centrist and more progressive wings of the Democratic Party.
Manchin, a senator from a deep-red state who is up for reelection in 2024, further sought to distance himself from Biden in his statement when he said, “Let me be clear, this is something the President has never said to me.”
“Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting. The President owes these incredible workers an immediate and public apology and it is time he learn a lesson that his words matter and have consequences,” Manchin concluded.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded in a statement Saturday saying Biden’s words have been “twisted.”
“The President’s remarks yesterday have been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offense. The President was commenting on a fact of economics and technology: as it has been from its earliest days as an energy superpower, America is once again in the midst of an energy transition,” Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre’s statement only mentioned Manchin directly once, saying he is a “tireless advocate for his state and the hard-working men and women who live there.”
This story has been updated with additional reaction.