Manchin Rebukes Podesta for Remark on China’s Role in Making EVs

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(Bloomberg) -- Senator Joe Manchin rebuked senior White House adviser John Podesta for blessing a role for Chinese companies in the manufacture of US products like electric vehicles.

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Manchin, who played a key role in rewriting electric vehicle tax credits with a goal of taking China out of the supply chain, said he would do “everything in my power to prevent this administration from welcoming China to take federal dollars with open arms.”

Manchin’s comments mark the latest clash between the conservative West Virginia Democrat and the administration in a week that included him publicly opposing three of President Joe Biden’s nominees.

Podesta, speaking at a forum on Thursday held by the American Council on Renewable Energy, a Washington-based trade group, said that Chinese companies would have some involvement in US production, like Ford Motor Co.’s partnership with Chinese battery giant CATL.

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Podesta said the Chinese are going to be “big players” generally, but the US “can’t be beholden to only Chinese supply for these critical materials, when they have indicated that they’re perfectly prepared to use their economic power when it serves their interests in a strategic way.”

His comments incensed Manchin, who has become increasingly frustrated with the White House’s efforts to bypass restrictions on EV credits in particular.

“It is beyond irresponsible for someone speaking on behalf of the White House to not only condone but also advocate for sending American tax dollars to Chinese companies,” Manchin said.

Podesta’s remarks, Manchin said, are not consistent with the laws he helped pass.

The senator added that there were “rumors” that the administration was “thoughtlessly considering opening up the EV credit’s eligibility beyond our free trade agreement partners and allow the laundering of Chinese minerals and materials through Trojan horse agreements.”

A White House official said Podesta had pointed out that China has too much sway in clean energy supply chains, and one of the goals of the Biden administration is to take back control.

The electric vehicle battery plant, which will be built in Michigan, has become a target of conservative criticism. Virginia was also considered, but that state’s governor, Glenn Youngkin, pulled out of the competition in January and denounced the project.

“I look forward to bringing a great company there. It won’t be one that uses kind of a Trojan-horse relationship with the Chinese Communist Party,” Youngkin said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Manchin has not said whether he will run for reelection next year, in a state that Donald Trump won by wide margins in 2016 and 2020.

He has already criticized Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others in the administration for how they are implementing the EV tax credit as well.

“We have a dire dependence problem and comments like this make it clear that this Administration doesn’t care about the energy security of this nation,” he said.

--With assistance from Justin Sink and Gabrielle Coppola.

(Updates with White House reaction, in paragraph.)

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