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Buttigieg warns Manchin of resistance to Biden’s climate plan: ‘It will cost lives’

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg delivered a blunt warning on Sunday to Joe Manchin and other Senate Democrats who are forcing Joe Biden to scale back his climate crisis agenda: your resistance is going to cost lives.

Manchin, senator for the coal-dependent state of West Virginia, opposes elements of the president’s clean energy performance program (CEPP), a $150bn central plank of his Build Back Better plan and $3.5tn spending bill.

White House officials have acknowledged that clean energy and clean electricity provisions are likely to be dropped from the bill to secure the support of Manchin and fellow sceptic Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both votes are critical in a divided 50-50 Senate.

Buttigieg appeared to express his disappointment in Manchin’s stance on Sunday, telling CNN’s State of the Union that the holdout politicians’ stonewalling of Biden’s ambitious climate plan could be deadly.

“The longer you take to do something about it, the more it’s going to cost in livelihoods as well as lives,” he said.

“The administration and the president are committed to bold climate action, exactly what legislative form that takes is what’s being negotiated right now. But the bottom line is we have to act on climate for the good of our children and for the good of our economy. This is kind of like a planetary maintenance issue.”

Biden is attempting to broker a deal with Manchin and Sinema that would allow the bill to pass, though the president has already conceded that cuts will be made. “I’m convinced we’re going to get it done. We’re not going to get $3.5tn. We’ll get less than that, but we’re going to get it,” Biden said on Friday.

Buttigieg’s criticism was more veiled than that of the progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who lambasted Manchin last week in an opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet… in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes.’ We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Manchin.” he wrote.

“This is a pivotal moment in modern American history. We have a historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few.”

His comments drew swift rebuke from Manchin, who in a tweet attempted to portray Sanders as a socialist out-of-stater trying to “tell West Virginians what is best for them”.

“Millions of jobs are open, supply chains are strained and unavoidable inflation taxes are draining workers’ hard-earned wages as the price of gasoline and groceries continues to rise,” Manchin said.

“I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs.”

Buttigieg on Sunday responded to criticisms of the administration’s handling of the supply chain crisis, telling CNN that it was caused at least partly by the success of Biden’s economic policies.

“If you think about those ships waiting at anchor on the west coast, every one is full of record amounts of goods that Americans are buying because demand is up, because income is up, because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession,” he said.

He praised Biden’s efforts last week to ease bottlenecks, which included ordering ports in California to operate 24 hours a day, but said in a separate interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that it wasn’t the government’s responsibility to solve what he said was a “very complex problem”.

“You got the terminals, the rail piece, you got the warehouses, the drivers, and we’re working on all of those angles,” he said. “But these are private-sector systems, this is a capitalist country. Nobody wants the federal government to own or operate the stores, the warehouses, the trucks, or the ships, or the ports. Our role is to try to make sure we’re supporting those businesses and those workers who do.”

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