Manchin, Capito say friendship continues despite disagreements

·6 min read

Aug. 6—The two West Virginia U.S. Senators are in different political parties but have a long standing reputation for not only working together, but of being friends as well.

But Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, are now publicly, and adamantly, at odds over the Inflation Reduction Act.

Manchin played the main role in working out a deal with Democratic leaders and Pres. Joe Biden to revive what remained of the original Build Back Better Bill, going from an initial $3.5 trillion proposal to the act's $739 billon price tag.

Democrats can pass the bill as part of the budget reconciliation process without GOP support, and that prospect improved considerably Thursday evening when the lone Democratic holdout on supporting the bill, Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona, got on board. The vote could come soon with a 50-50 vote with Vice Pres. Kamala Harris putting it over the top.

But this bill has been vilified by Republicans, including Capito,

On Thursday, Manchin called the bill a "great piece of legislation" and Capito said it will "crumble under its own weight."

The bill includes $300 billion for debt reduction and $369 billion for energy security and climate change plus funding to beef up the IRS and extend Affordable Health Care benefits.

Democrats project it can all be paid for with a 15 percent minimum corporate tax, prescription drug pricing reform, IRS enforcement and eliminating the carried interest loophole.

However, Sinema was insisting on changes to the 15 percent minimum.

According to the Washington Post, Sinema said Democrats had "agreed to remove" a key tax policy targeting wealthy investors that aimed to address what is known as the "carried interest loophole." She also signaled they had made additional tweaks to a second provision that imposes a new minimum tax on corporations that currently pay nothing to the U.S. government.

The details of the changes had not yet been released.

Manchin and Capito, who have known each other for many years, expressed adamant disagreements on the overall act, and on that 15 percent minimum tax.

They also disagreed on whether the act would actually help with inflation with Capito insisting it will make it worse and Manchin insisting it will help.

But their major disagreement may be on the energy security and climate change piece of the legislation.

Manchin said the plan does support fossil fuel use and development as well as renewables.

"We can walk and chew gum at the same," he said recently, adding on Thursday that no energy source should be taken offline if it is still needed or an acceptable replacement is not ready.

Manchin, who also was criticized by the national and state Coal Associations, said people did not understand the details of the act, which support and gives money to develop carbon sequestration and to research and develop other uses for coal.

He also said much of the criticism is based on "Republican talking points."

Capito said the bill focuses mainly on green energy and will hurt the coal industry.

"This administration does not want to move forward to incentivize any kind of burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal," she said Thursday, and the bill is aimed at accelerating green energy.

"It will hurt our industries in West Virginia, our hard working men and women in oil and gas business or in coal business," she said. "That will also, I think, hamper our energy security in this country."

Their positions on these issues are far apart, and neither has given an inch.

However, some of the initiatives they do agree on include reforming and lowering drug prices, making sure coal miners who have black lung receive health benefits, permitting process reforms that will speed up energy projects, including building the Mountain Valley Pipeline to supply needed natural gas from West Virginia.

In fact, on Thursday, the Senate voted on a Congressional Review Act resolution to end some provisions in the National Environmental Protection Act that the Biden administration recently added, making it even more difficult to obtain needed permits like the environmental impact statements (EIS). All GOP senators supported the resolution but Manchin was the lone Democrat to vote for the resolution, although it is unlikely to pass the House."For years I've worked to fix our broken permitting system and I know the Administration's approach to permitting is dead wrong," Manchin said in a statement after the vote. "Today's vote to repeal these burdensome NEPA rules is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately this legislation is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. That's why I fought so hard to secure a commitment on bipartisan permitting reform, which is the only way we're going to actually fix this problem. I hope every Republican that voted for this legislation today will support the bipartisan permitting reform bill when it comes before the Senate in September."

Both Manchin and Capito have been big supporters of streamlining federal regulations to speed up infrastructure projects, ending extensive climate change study requirements that both believe go to far. But Capito said she remains "skeptical" of the permitting reform bill Manchin was referring to.

During two separate virtual press briefings on Thursday, both senators were asked about their relationship and if these recent public disagreements had caused any damage.

"Sen. Manchin and I have talked about this and we agreed to disagree," Capito said on the Inflation Reduction Act. "This will not influence our relationship going forward. We are on solid ground there."

Capito said they have always worked together on issues where they have common ground and that will continue.

She also said they have had stark differences in the past on important votes, including whether to impeach former Pres. Donald Trump and confirming U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

"In the end, this is not going to damage our professional relationship and I don't believe it will damage our personal one either," she said.

"We always talk," Manchin said, and on this issue they just disagreed.

But Manchin said he asked Capito to be "very careful because so much good is coming (with the legislation)."

"We've talked about it and she just looks at it differently," he said. "I respect where she is coming from. We don't make it personal, but she has gone after me pretty hard on this."

Manchin is convinced, though, he is on the right path here.

"Shelley is my friend and whatever happens, happens," he said. "If we pass this bill, I know she will be hoping for the best. I think she will see the fruits of this sooner rather than later. We just happen to be in different places on this."

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com