Manchin co-sponsors bill to undo Biden solar tariff freeze

Source: BY ZACK BUDRYK, The Hill • Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2023

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Annabelle Gordon. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 to discuss the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act which would allow the Department of Commerce to identify and protect against foreign threats to technology products and services.

Sen. Joe Manchin has joined Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in co-sponsoring a bill that would restore solar power tariffs suspended by President Biden, the latest break between the West Virginia Democrat and the leader of his party on energy.

The resolution is the Senate version of a House bill invoking the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows a simple majority of Congress to override executive branch rules. The House is expected to vote on its version of the bill this week, while Biden has already vowed to veto it if it reaches his desk.

“The United States relies on foreign nations, like China, for far too many of our energy needs, and failing to enforce our existing trade laws undermines the goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to onshore our energy supply chains, including solar,” Manchin said in a statement. “I cannot fathom why the Administration and Congress would consider extending that reliance any longer and am proud to join this CRA to rescind the rule.”

Biden has defended the suspension of tariffs as necessary to buy the U.S. time to build up renewable energy capacity as it seeks to transition away from fossil fuels.

Manchin has not yet announced whether he will run for reelection in 2024, but is likely to face a steep challenge, with the combination of Biden at the top of the ticket, the state’s rightward drift and its popular Republican Gov. Jim Justice likely to seek the GOP nomination for his Senate seat. Manchin is also thought to be eyeing a possible White House bid.

The senator, who has always been to the administration’s right on environmental issues, has stepped up salvoes against its energy policies in recent months, backing two other CRA resolutions targeting them and saying he would vote for a hypothetical repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate package he shepherded through the Senate last year.

Another red-state Democrat up in 2024, Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), has also called for the resumption of the tariffs, although it’s unclear whether he will vote for the CRA resolution.

Brown’s office also confirmed he would back the resolution Wednesday.

“The president got this one wrong. I’ve always stood up to presidents of both parties to fight for fair trade and a level playing field for Ohio workers, which is why I will support Congressional action to end the Administration’s waiver of solar tariffs,” Brown said in a statement.

This story was updated at 4:37 p.m.