Coal-Loving Senator Joe Manchin to Be Top Democrat on Senate Energy Committee

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Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, perhaps the least-green Democrat, will be the new ranking Democratic member of the Senate Energy Committee, according to The Hill. Sen. Chuck Shumer announced the appointment today along with ranking members of other committees.

From The Hill:

“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve West Virginians in this new role as the lead Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,” Manchin said in a statement.

“This committee has a long history of bipartisanship that has helped propel our nation’s energy technology forward. West Virginia is a leading energy producer and major contributor to advanced energy technologies, and I intend to ensure this progress is continued,” he said.

“The problems facing our country are serious, and I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common sense solutions for long-term comprehensive energy policy that incorporates an all-of-the-above strategy and ensures our state and our nation are leaders in the energy future.”


Manchin, a right-leaning Democrat, often sides with Trump and the GOP on energy issues and is a strong supporter of coal. In 2010, he famously expressed his distaste for progressive climate policy by shooting a copy of the Democrat’s cap-and-trade bill with a gun.

Environmentalists and progressive groups were dismayed by Manchin’s appointment.

“Joe Manchin’s appointment as ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee is a stark failure of Chuck Schumer’s leadership,” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement, according to The Hill. “Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress.”

Leadership roles on Senate panels are generally chosen by seniority, but the Democratic caucus still has to ratify the appointees. There are four senators more senior than Manchin who could have blocked his appointment by taking the role themselves, but they were all otherwise occupied, according to The Hill.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member since 2015, took over as the top Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. That spot opened up because Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) lost reelection last month.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) remained atop the Finance Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) kept the top spot on the Agriculture Committee and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) kept the ranking position on the Budget Committee.


Progressives attempted to push Sanders to take Manchin’s spot. He declined, and didn’t answer questions about the decision today.