West Virginians Give Manchin a Lump of Coal for Christmas

When West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin shook Washington with his announcement that he would oppose President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, he offered some sort of statement. “If I can’t go home and explain to the West Virginia people, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to go ahead with this legislative text. I just can’t, “Manchin told Fox News on Sunday. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I’m not going there. ”

But the corporate-minded Democrat, whose pre-Christmas announcement thwarted year-end efforts to get rid of social spending, never tried to explain the plan to the West Virginians. He did the opposite. He said it was too expensive, too far-reaching and too ambitious to tackle everything from ending child poverty to tackling climate change.

“Let’s be clear: Manchin’s excuse is rubbish,” replied Representative Ilhan Omara (D-Minn.). “The people of West Virginia would benefit directly from childcare, pre-Medicare expansion, and long-term care, just like the Minnesota residents.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) was equally blunt, saying on MSNBCs Tomorrow Joe“The idea of ​​Joe Manchin saying he couldn’t explain this to his people back home is a farce.”

Of course it’s a farce.

Manchin is a political careerist who has a long history to use elected offices to enrich oneself and one’s family. His low opinion of its voters has long been an open secret in West Virginia. Now it’s making the headlines.

“Manchins allegedly told people that parents who received the $ 300 per child would spend that money on drugs.” announced WTRF-TV in Wheeling. “Manchin is said to have also told his fellow senators that he was against the sick leave paid on the bill because people would lie about their illness on hunting trips.”

Despite the revelations of his personal greed for profit, deference to donors, and disregard for the people he is supposed to represent, Manchin now claims that the West Virginians agree with him.

“When I spoke to Senator Manchin on Monday, he kept telling me that the people of West Virginia were glad he wasn’t promoting this law, that it wasn’t good for West Virginia. I don’t think that’s true, ”Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), told me on Tuesday.

Jayapal is right: Polls show that most West Virginians are okay with most of the Build Back Better agenda.

After Jayapal made a statement stating that the senator was not “a man who keeps his word”, the CPC chairman said Manchin called her. Her testimony clearly hurt.

Manchin’s call offered an indication that he is sensitive to suggestions, that he has no contact with major constituencies in his state, said Jayapal, who believes those constituencies may still be able to convince Manchin to support much of the Build Back Better agenda to support – maybe as part of some important piece of legislation, maybe in part. Jayapal gives hope based on developments since Manchin’s Sunday interview. “I think Senator Manchin, aside from all the statistics on poverty and hardship in his state, needs to hear from the people. Therefore I think [Manchin’s longtime ally] Statement by Cecil Roberts is so important. I think that statement is just the beginning of a number we’ll hear from mothers, families who are going to lose the child tax break, from people who are going to speak up and say, ‘No Senator Manchin, that’s what West Virginia needs. Please consider and let us pass it on. ‘”

“Let’s just hope,” she added, that he listens to his voters. ”

“Joe Manchin does not speak for us”

Roberts, a 75 year old native Kanawha County, W.Va., is the president of the United Miners of America (UMWA), the union that has represented miners in coal countries for a century. After Manchin dealt a blow to the Democrats and his constituents on Sunday, Roberts and the miners urged the Senator “to reconsider his opposition to this bill and to work with his colleagues to pass something that will do the work of the coal miners to maintain and have a significant impact ”. on our members, their families and their communities. ”

Though Manchin was one of the union’s key allies, Roberts didn’t mince his words in his statement, saying that a failure to move forward with Build Back Better legislation would be bad for union members and bad for West Virginia.

“The bill includes wording that changes the current fee paid by coal companies to fund the services that pneumoconiosis victims receive from coal workers or black lung,” said Roberts. “But now that fee is being cut in half, shifting the burden of paying those benefits further from the coal companies to the taxpayers.”

He added:

The bill includes wording that provides tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to build facilities in the coalfields that would employ thousands of coal miners who have lost their jobs. We support this and are ready to supply these plants with trained specialists. But now the potential for these jobs is seriously jeopardized.

The bill contains wording that would, for the first time, financially penalize law-abiding employers who deny workers their right to unionize in the workplace. This language is critical to any long-term ability to re-establish the right to organize in America in the face of increasing union breakdown by employers. But now there is no way for millions of workers to exercise their rights in the workplace.

For these and other reasons, we are disappointed that the bill will not be passed.

Roberts and the UMWA are not the only ones raising their voices. After Eric Engle, a regular commentator on the opinion pages of The Charleston Gazette-Mail, wrote This Week: “I’m sure Manchin’s industry and corporate backers were thrilled when Manchin’s Fox News announcement heard. What a great return on investment. But working families, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with black lung disease and those of us who understand the extreme urgency of tackling global anthropogenic climate change are certainly not. ”

And at a rally on Monday in Charleston, Angi Kerns explained, “Joe Manchin does not speak for us and … does not represent us.”

This is a message that needs to be reinforced in the coming days, said Rev. William Barber II, who organized the Campaign of the Poor in West Virginia. “You can’t move Manchin into the back room,” the leader of the Mondays Morale told me, adding that there was still time to “unite and put massive pressure on Manchin”.

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