Following President Donald Trump's joint address to Congress Tuesday night, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) was caught on video sharing a friendly moment with the commander in chief, and now many of his fellow Democrats want him out.
A group of activists plan to deliver 225,000 petition signatures to the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday, "demanding that he remove Trump-apologist Joe Manchin from Senate Democratic Leadership."
One petition website, 350.org, said it is "unacceptable" for a "conservative ... extremist" like Manchin to hold a leadership position in the Senate Democratic Caucus. Manchin serves as the vice chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
Manchin, a blue-dog Democrat, has faced criticism from his friends on the left in recent weeks for his genteel approach to the president. He said he "loved the presidential tone" of Trump's joint address earlier this week and, in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham Wednesday, Manchin criticized "the hard-core left."
Manchin called out his fellow Democrats for being too obstructionist, comparing them to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Last year, the Republican senator led a successful campaign to block the confirmation of former President Barack Obama's then-Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
"The hard-core left looks back and says, ‘Well, it worked for [the Republicans]. They have both the House and the Senate and they have the presidency. So, why don’t we try the same thing, since it worked for them?' Well, that didn’t work for the American people, I can assure you, and that’s not what they want," Manchin said. "Two wrongs don’t make a right. I understand that mindset a lot of people are in right now. I don’t subscribe to that."
He told Ingraham that such practices create a "toxic atmosphere."
Manchin is up for re-election in 2018 and, as the National Review pointed out, could face tough opposition from a Republican with statewide popularity, such as West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
While Manchin's statement and frequent willingness to side with Republicans may not be gaining him many friends among Democrats on Capitol Hill, the senator's campaign is facing a re-election bid in a state where not only did Trump win handily, with 67.9 percent of the vote, but also every county went to the GOP nominee.
A year ago, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which called for a 32 percent reduction in electricity sector carbon emissions by 2030, from being implemented until lower courts evaluate the regulations. Opponents of the rule argued it was a clear example of federal overreach and would be damaging to the coal and energy industries.
In September, several state attorneys general argued before the D.C. Circuit Court that the plan gave the federal government too much power, and it was Morrisey who led the charge.
"The president’s power plan was such an absolute overreach, and it affects so many people’s lives," Morrisey said at the time. "Coal matters. Energy resources matter. When you see the executive branch put a bull's-eye on your state, one of the poorest states in country, and you know people are going to lose their jobs, and it doesn’t come in a purposeful manner, ... it’s particularly callous, reckless and illegal."
In an effort to walk the line as a Democrat, but still please his constituents, Manchin distanced himself from his fellow lawmakers, taking issue with some of former President Barack Obama's regulations on the coal industry. In fact, in December, when the outgoing administration rolled out new coal-mining regulations to protect waterways from pollution, Manchin — along with several Republicans — criticized it.
"I want to reiterate that the proposed rule was very alarming in its scope and potential impacts. I believe that the manner in which this rule-making was executed was flawed and lacked transparency, and I will pursue legislation to ensure it does not harm our coal mining communities and economies," he said in a statement at the time, according to the Washington Times.
Last month, Trump signed legislation to undo the Obama-era rule, The Hill reported. At the time, the president said the regulation was "another terrible job killing rule," adding that ending it will create "many thousands American jobs, especially in the mines, which, I have been promising you — the mines are a big deal."