Manchin surprised by McConnell opposition: ‘You can be a hero one day and a villain the next’

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) admitted Monday that he was caught by surprise when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Senate Republicans decided to oppose his permitting reform bill, which means it will likely fail on the Senate floor this week.

Manchin said he expected Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an outspoken progressive, and other “far-left” liberals to oppose his legislation to limit federal agency authority to review new energy projects but was stunned when Republicans also came out in opposition last week.

“I never did think I’d have Bernie and some of the extreme far left,” he told Fox News host Neil Cavuto in an interview Monday. “What I didn’t expect is that Mitch McConnell and my Republican friends would be sacking up with Bernie or trying to get the same outcome by not passing permitting reform.”

Manchin warned that this week’s vote in the Senate could be the last chance of passing permitting reform for the foreseeable future and expressed dismay that his bill is now likely to go down in defeat because Republicans are angry he cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reform the corporate tax code and pass hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change.

“I don’t see it ever coming back again. People just aren’t going to be there at all,” he said.

Manchin pointed out that he’s voted with Republicans repeatedly on permitting reform bills during his 12 years in the Senate and said that now that Democrats are ready to vote for a permitting reform bill, Republican colleagues should join in.

“Every time there was permitting reform, I’d vote for it. I was the only Democrat. Now all of the sudden we got a majority of the Democrats, an overwhelming majority of Democrats, that will support a very balanced procedure forward. Is it a perfect bill? No. Does it move the needle? Absolutely,” he said.

He said his bill would allow energy companies to get products to the market in one to three years instead of five to 10 years.

Manchin said he can’t understand why Republicans would block his permitting reform bill just because of his vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, which implemented a 15 percent corporate minimum tax, allocated $369 billion to fight climate change and empowered Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

“That’s the only thing we did in taxes,” he said on Fox. “We’re just trying to get corporations that paid nothing to pay at least 15 percent.”

He marveled over his sudden drop in popularity among his Senate GOP colleagues.

“You can be a hero one day and a villain the next,” he said, alluding to the praise he received from Republicans after sinking Biden’s Build Back Better framework in December.

He blamed the GOP opposition on politics more than policy differences.

“[If] politics get in the way, I’m sorry,” he said.

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