West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has withdrawn his support for a federal energy regulator nominee as he faces immense scrutiny from his party’s environmental base.
A Senate procedural vote Wednesday to confirm Robert McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) fell along party lines, 50-49. Despite being a Democrat, Manchin’s vote again McNamee was unexpected. The West Virginia lawmaker — who has been largely supportive of President Donald Trump’s energy agenda — had voted to pass McNamee through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee two weeks ago.
Manchin cited recently unearthed video that showed McNamee trashing renewable energy and questioning the legitimacy of climate change.
“After viewing video footage, which I had not previously seen, where Bernard McNamee outright denies the impact that humans are having on our climate, I can no longer support his nomination to be a FERC commissioner,” Manchin said in a statement Wednesday.
The senior senator from West Virginia is referring to video taken in February when McNamee worked for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. In the footage, McNamee claimed carbon dioxide was not a “real pollutant,” said renewable energy “screws up” the grid, and referred to courtroom battles between the energy industry and environmentalists as a “constant battle between liberty and tyranny.”
However, Manchin voted in committee to advance McNamee on Nov. 27 — about a week after the video resurfaced and made headlines.
Manchin’s reversal comes as environmental groups are voicing their opposition to him becoming the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, arguing that his pro-coal stance and support for the Trump administration’s energy agenda makes him unfit to lead Democrats on the powerful committee. Even members of his own party have questioned the move.
Manchin’s last-minute pivot to the left may not be enough to win environmentalists over.
“A last-minute flip on McNamee doesn’t erase a career of putting polluters ahead of people. Manchin has the worst climate record of any Democratic senator,” Jamie Henn of 350.org told Axios. The Sunrise Movement, another active green group, has also indicated they will remain opposed to Mancin’s promotion on the committee.
McNamee’s final Senate vote will take place Thursday, where he is expected to be confirmed with GOP support.
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