A new U.S. Senator from the Central Appalachian coalfields said Democratic leadership promised him this week that federal “cap-andtrade” legislation is dead.
Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has promised the cap-and-trade bill — which he famously shot with a rifle in a campaign ad — won’t be an issue.
In a teleconference with reporters the day after his swearing-in, the former governor said he met with Reid on Monday for a “heart-to-heart” about coal and other energy issues.
“I got his commitment that capand trade will definitely not be on the agenda, and won’t be on the agenda during the next Congress,” Manchin said. “I have a deep commitment and a personal commitment from him that cap-and-trade is dead.”
Manchin, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, assumed the office Monday.
Reid was re-elected to his Democratic leadership post by acclamation Tuesday morning. A total of 23 Democratic senators are up for election in 2012.
The coal industry has long argued that cap-and-trade legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gases would devastate business. Manchin used a hunting rifle to put a bullet through a facsimile of the bill during his campaign against Republican John Raese.
Manchin said he’s already made clear to fellow Democrats that he will staunchly defend the coal industry and won’t shrink from a fight. He described attending a meeting on Monday where various forms of renewable energy were discussed.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute, you forgot one. It’s coal. Half the nation depends on it,’” he recounted.
Manchin said he’s asked to serve on the energy and appropriations committees but won’t learn his assignments until January. He acknowledged, however, that landing appropriations — which Byrd chaired through most of his later years — is a long shot.
“They tell me, ‘Dream on,’” he said.
Manchin also reiterated his support for federal earmarks, or lawmakers’ long-standing practice of allocating money for homestate projects.
Byrd, whom detractors called “the king of pork,” was renown for bringing federal dollars to West Virginia, and Manchin said he believes earmarks have a place in the process.
However, he also called for more transparency, saying senators should have to publicly justify their requests.
“The process is secretive. The process is wrong. It has to be open and transparent,” he said. If taxpayers are going to be asked to help West Virginia, then they should know what the state’s needs are, he said.
Manchin said he doesn’t understand how infrastructure projects he considers “the necessities of life” — such as water and sewer lines or bridges and roads — could be labeled pork-barrel spending.
Tell that to 500 families who have to haul clean drinking water around in their pickups, he said.
Manchin acknowledged Congress can’t continue what he called “reckless financial spending” but said small states and local governments can’t do everything on their own, either.