by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Joe Biden has found himself stuck in the middle of the Democratic Party on environmental issues despite running on a sweeping green agenda, a tension that remains unresolved as he prepares to seek a second term.
Biden has attempted to govern with narrow Democratic majorities that have given outsized influence to a fossil fuel state centrist, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), while facing a slew of domestic and international conditions — the war in Ukraine, last year’s spike in gasoline prices, inflation, OPEC+ production cuts — that have forced him to go slower than he would prefer in pursuing his green agenda.
Liberals who hoped Build Back Better would be a down payment on the Green New Deal have been frustrated while a much smaller number of centrists — along with the vast majority of Republicans — believe Biden hasn’t done enough to boost U.S. energy production.
That problem hasn’t abated this year, even as Republicans seized control of the House. Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) joined Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who still caucuses with Senate Democrats, in voting with Republicans to overturn a Biden administration water rule.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with the Democrats, joined Manchin in voting to rescind a Biden administration regulation that expanded the definition of an endangered species’ critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sided with Manchin and Republicans in overturning certain protections for the long-eared bat.
Although Democrats slightly expanded their Senate majority to 51-49 from a deadlocked chamber that required Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties, Biden has lost on all these resolutions because of Democratic defections.
If anything, the political math has gotten harder because of a Republican House and a handful of red state Democratic senators who are up for reelection in 2024 at the same time as Biden.