Manchin/Big Coal 2010?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin said Wednesday he would “highly consider” making a bid to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Robert Byrd’s death last week. The state law on whether to hold a special election to fill the seat this November, or wait until Byrd’s current term finishes in 2012, is unclear, and the state attorney general has yet to weigh in. Manchin said he supports a race this fall because “two and half years for me to appoint someone to replace this giant, Robert C. Byrd, is far too long.” And Manchin just happens to have his eyes on the seat.

In a press conference yesterday, the second-term Democratic governor also didn’t rule out getting the state legislature to change the law so that they can hold the special election this fall. In the meantime, Manchin will likely appoint someone to keep the seat warm for him who is largely in line with his views (he’s already said he won’t appoint himself, but has made it clear that he has national ambitions). Manchin stands a good chance of winning, whether it’s this fall or in 2012; he won reelection in 2008 with almost 70 percent of the vote.

Neither Manchin nor a placeholder would be a particularly good addition to the Senate when it comes to climate and energy legislation. To call Manchin a champion of coal would be an understatement; last year he named coal the official state rock. Last month he pushed the state legislature to introduce a resolution condemning action on climate change. He also cheered West Virginia’s junior senator, Jay Rockefeller, for trying to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

Byrd, long a champion of coal, came around on the issue quite a bit near the end of his life. He blasted the effort to neuter the EPA an “extreme” move that would “dismiss scientific facts” about climate change. He also penned an op-ed last December on the need for coal to “embrace the future” and stop denying “the mounting science of climate change,” and was critical of mountaintop removal, a mining practice that has brought environmental devastation to the state.

Ken Ward at the Charleston Gazette tried to ask Manchin’s spokesman about whether he would appoint someone in the mold of Byrd or himself on climate change, but didn’t get a straight answer.

Manchin is also pro-life and an NRA member, so I don’t expect progressives are going to get particularly excited about him in any case. But on climate and energy issues, Manchin or his seat-holder will probably have to vote on some manner of legislation in the very near future. Byrd became a fairly reliable vote for climate action, but the next senator from the state probably won’t carry on that legacy.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate