West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will serve as the Democrat ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday. Manchin, who once sued the Environmental Protection Agency, famously shot a climate change bill with a rifle in a campaign ad during the 2010 election:
Manchin’s appointment was not unexpected. The former West Virginia governor already sits on the committee, is the Ranking Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, and has energy as one of his most adamant issues. But Manchin takes a more conservative approach than many of his Democrat colleagues, including pushing for the continued use of coal energy. West Virginia relies heavily on the industry, where it still provides about 2 percent of all jobs.
Manchin votes with President Donald Trump 60.8 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. And the the League of Conservation Voters gives him a lifetime score of 45 percent when it comes to voting on pro-environment policies.
Because of this record, many Democrats further to the left of Manchin were critical that he was likely to be named ranking member on the energy committee. Newcomer Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said she had “concerns” about handing the top seat to a pro-coal Democrat, who received $156,240 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries in 2018. He also still earns money from a coal brokerage company he ran before his life in politics.
“I have concerns over the senator’s chairmanship just because I do not believe that we should be financed by the industries that we are supposed to be legislating and regulating and touching with our legislation,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Some Democrats and environmental groups were hopeful that pro-environment Senator Bernie Sanders, who has more seniority than Manchin, would push for the role, but it appears Sanders is happy as ranking member of the budget committee.