Sen. Bernard Sanders accused Sen. Joe Manchin III of “intentionally sabotaging” President Biden’s agenda on Sunday after a revelation last week that the West Virginia Democrat was ending talks to secure a party-line vote on a spending bill on climate and energy.
Mr. Manchin said that concerns over rising costs trumped his willingness for new government funding in the wake of June’s 40-year-high inflation of 9.1%, prompting Mr. Biden over the weekend to pledge “strong executive action” on climate.
“He has sabotaged the president’s agenda,” Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said of Mr. Manchin on ABC’s “This Week.” “The problem was that we continue to talk Manchin like he was serious. He was not. This is a guy who is a major recipient of fossil fuel money, a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires.”
The socialist lawmaker also said Sunday that he had been warning Democrats about this end game.
“Six months ago, I made it clear that you have people like Manchin, [Arizona Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema to a lesser degree, who are intentionally sabotaging the president’s agenda, what the American people, what a majority of us in the Democratic Caucus want. Nothing new about this,” Mr. Sanders said.
In an interview with a local radio station over the weekend, Mr. Manchin explained his core concerns.
“Inflation is absolutely killing many, many people. They can’t buy gasoline,” he said. “They have a hard time buying groceries. Everything they buy and consume for their daily lives is a hardship to them.”
Mr. Manchin told Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer that he “unequivocally” would support only a provision to lower prescription drug prices and a two-year extension of subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. He and Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, had been in monthslong talks to secure a deal on a spending bill known as reconciliation.
Progressives and environmentalists quickly derided Mr. Manchin, who for more than a year has been involved in negotiations with either the Biden administration or congressional Democrats to reach an agreement on energy and climate policies.
Mr. Sanders described the latest talks as “the same nonsense that Manchin has been talking about for a year.”
“In my humble opinion, Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country, not working families in West Virginia or America,” Mr. Sanders said.
Mr. Biden vowed over the weekend that if the Senate will not pass a major climate-change bill and back clean energy programs through legislation, he would “meet this moment” with the unilateral power of the presidency.
“I will not back down: the opportunity to create jobs and build a clean energy future is too important to relent,” he said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the far-left “Squad,” said congressional failure to pass climate-change legislation makes it Mr. Biden’s responsibility to do something. The New York Democrat said that she and other progressives have already given him the blueprint to follow.
Environmentalists and the left have become increasingly frustrated at congressional setbacks to Mr. Biden’s climate pledges.
“We have communicated over a dozen executive orders to the president,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “Everything from declaring a national emergency to using his authority to really shaping his approach to how fossil fuels get authorized, how vehicles are authorized. There’s [power] in the executive branch and I think it is time to use it.”
Mr. Biden is limited in the executive action he can take, and it remains to be seen what the White House will do.
The Manchin defection was the latest setback to Mr. Biden’s climate agenda after the Supreme Court just weeks ago undercut the administration’s policies by ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have broad authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.
• Mica Soellner and Joseph Clark contributed to this report.