News reports suggest that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is a finalist for the job of energy secretary in the Trump administration. While Beltway insiders and the mainstream media get oddly giddy about the prospect of a politically-diverse presidential cabinet, Manchin would be a troubling pick. He has failed his constituents again and again by supporting disastrous policies, and Manchin’s brand of crony capitalism is likely to make even Bill and Hillary Clinton envious.
Just consider what the West Virginia GOP had to say about the Democratic senator last week: “While Republicans in West Virginia appreciate President-Elect Donald Trump’s desire for a diverse Cabinet and his understanding of the need for bipartisanship, we, in the strongest possible terms, encourage him to choose a true conservative who has never sold out our energy industries and working families to the Obama-Clinton Team.”
It’s unusual for home-staters to bash the possibility of one of their own in a situation such as this. We have to ask the question: Why? The answer is complex because Sen. Manchin has offered an Oscar-worthy performance portraying himself as a middle of the road Democrat who represents his state’s interests. The senator’s record reveals this is complete myth.
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton this November by a whopping 68 percent to 26 percent in West Virginia. The state delivered one of the biggest margins for Trump, but it was not long ago that West Virginia was a consistently blue state. It’s clear that struggling West Virginia voters are excited about change and wanted to send the message that enough is enough. Manchin, who has been in elected office since 1982, hardly represents the future and the change that is necessary to improve anyone’s standard of living … nevermind those in coal country who have been devastated by the policies of his party.
On The Issues
Manchin is simply unacceptable as energy secretary even though he often feigns a pro-energy stance to continue winning reelection in his home state. Look at some of his other votes that are considered a priority for the president elect:
- Supports the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — Sen. Manchin voted in favor of Obamacare, which is now priority one for Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans to repeal and replace. The enactment of this legislation, in fact, gave birth to the populist conservatives who now dominate nationwide and gave rise to Trump in the first place.
- Endorsed Hillary Clinton for President — While it’s not surprising that a member of the Democratic Party would endorse the top of the ticket, it is shocking that the senator representing a state with an economy dependent on coal would do so when that candidate said explicitly said she wanted to put coal country out of business.
- Blindly Backs Alternative Energy — As governor, Manchin signed legislation to force electric utilities to get a specific percentage of their power from green energy. He did this even though it would raise the cost of energy for West Virginians and without proof the state could even achieve the high targets the law set. Manchin’s Democratic successor was forced to repeal the legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support last year.
A Family Business?
According to a report from USA Today, Manchin’s wife, Gayle, who was the head of the National Association of State Boards of Education, abused her position to lobby for all states to carry EpiPens in the event a student has a dangerous allergic reaction. Following Gayle Manchin’s campaign, 11 states drafted legislation requiring EpiPens in schools, and most other states recommended schools stock them.
On its surface, protecting at-risk students wouldn’t be a bad thing. However, the CEO of Mylan, the corporation that manufacturers EpiPens, is none other than Heather Bresch, Manchin’s daughter. Let’s not forget that in September, Mylan increased the cost of EpiPens by 461 percent. Meanwhile, Bresch’s annual salary rose from $2.4 million in 2007 to $18.9 million in 2015. Bresch dodged and weaved during Capitol Hill hearings regarding her role in the absurdly high price increases. She seems to have escaped the controversy, just as she did when she was caught lying about receiving an MBA. In that instance, which occurred while Manchin was governor, West Virginia University officials scrambled to magically give Bresch an MBA she had not earned. After an investigation, those officials were forced to resign.
This is Clinton-like cronyism at its absolute worst. Republicans owe nothing to Manchin and even less to Big Pharma. Let’s not forget that during the ACA debate, “moderate” Democrats (including Manchin), Big Pharma, and Big Insurance all sided with President Obama and thrust Obamacare on the American public even though it was couched in one gigantic lie (“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period.”) and was and remains overwhelmingly unpopular.
The Governor of West Virginia is a Democrat, and he will almost certainly name another Democrat to Manchin’s Senate seat if he were to be appointed energy secretary. Sen. Manchin is high on the list of endangered Democrats up for reelection in 2018. West Virginians are eager to send him into retirement. It would be a strategically terrible decision to allow another Democrat to take Manchin’s seat for the next two years and gain the name recognition and incumbency advantage for the 2018 Senate race.
Mr. Trump, nominating Cabinet picks is your decision alone. But selecting Manchin for Secretary of Energy offers no policy or political upside. You vehemently campaigned against Manchin’s Clinton-esque brand of crony capitalism and his support for disastrous economic policies. These should disqualify him from the position.