While the news has been inundated with Kyle Rittenhouse trial reactions and the mass murder that took place in Waukesha, Joe Biden's agenda continues to languish.
After Nancy Pelosi forced through the “Build Back Better” bill last week, the administration is no closer to seeing it come to fruition in the Senate. Multiple things were included in the House version that Joe Manchin has already said represent a redline, including climate provisions and federal funding for abortions.
Now, Manchin is making noise about the current gas-price crisis, and in doing so, he looks to have stumbled upon a major piece of leverage. The West Virginia senator released this statement yesterday.
“Today's release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an important policy Band-Aid for rising gas prices but does not solve for the self-inflicted wound that shortsighted energy policy is having on our nation. With an energy transition underway across the country, it is critical that Washington does not jeopardize America's energy security in the near term and leave consumers vulnerable to rising prices. Historic inflation taxes and the lack of a comprehensive all-of-the-above energy policy pose a clear and present threat to American's economic and energy security that can no longer be ignored.
I continue to call on President Biden to responsibly increase energy production here at home and to reverse course to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built which would have provided our country with up to 900,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada, one of our closest allies. To be clear, this is about American energy independence and the fact that hard working Americans should not depend on foreign actors, like OPEC+, for our energy security and instead focus on the real challenges facing our country's future.”
Manchin is already holding up Biden's agenda, but in my opinion, this represents the perfect pressure point to force Biden's hand. Why pass the “Build Back Better” act when you can extract a pound of flesh that will help working Americans in such a viable way? Manchin has already made the Keystone XL pipeline a big issue in the past and there's no better way to make the president bend the knee than to insist that it be restarted along with a renewal of federal oil and gas leases.
The question is, will Manchin make such a move? If he wants to be re-elected (or run for governor in West Virginia as rumored), then he will. Of course, that also depends on whether he's content to not pass anything. If he's willing to kill the whole thing, then maybe he doesn't even make the demand to restart Keystone XL in exchange for passage. But color me skeptical that Manchin is willing to let Biden's agenda die completely. In that case, he should ensure that his constituents get relief in exchange for universal pre-K.
Still, such a gambit could be complicated. He'd need a guarantee in blood from the White House that they wouldn't just re-cancel the pipeline a few months from now. There are ways that could be done, including a threat by Manchin that he caucuses with the GOP if the White House goes back on their agreement.
In short, Manchin has a game-winning move at his disposal, but will he use it?