The Whole World Is Hating on Joe Manchin

“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe.”

Joe Manchin speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, January 2021.Jose Luis Magana/AP

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Within the brutal machinations of US politics, Joe Manchin has been elevated to a status of supreme decision-maker, the man who could make or break Joe Biden’s presidency.

Internationally, however, the Democratic senator’s new fame has been received with puzzlement and growing bitterness, as countries already ravaged by the climate crisis brace themselves for the US—history’s largest ever emitter of planet-heating gases—again failing to pass major climate legislation.

For six months, Manchin has refused to support a sweeping bill to lower emissions, stymieing its progress in an evenly split US Senate where Republicans uniformly oppose climate action. Failure to pass the Build Back Better Act risks wounding Biden politically but the ramifications reverberate far beyond Washington, particularly in developing countries increasingly at the mercy of disastrous climate change.

“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh. “If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is. The level of knowledge of American politics here is absolutely amazing, we know about the filibuster and the Senate and so on.

“What the Americans do or don’t do on climate will impact the world and it’s incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up. It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately.”

The often tortuous negotiations between Manchin, the White House and Democratic leaders appeared doomed on December 19, when the West Virginia senator said he could not support the $1.75 trillion bill, citing concerns over inflation and the national debt. The latest twist caused anguish to those who see their futures being decided by a previously obscure politician located thousands of miles away.

“I’ve been following the situation closely,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a low-lying Pacific nation that risks being wiped out by rising sea levels. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.”

Stege said the Marshall Islands was already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis and if the US doesn’t slash its emissions “the outcomes for countries like mine are unthinkable.”

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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