Vice President Kamala Harris gave an interview with a local television station in West Virginia on Thursday, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D) does not appear to be happy about it.
With the Senate evenly divided, Democrats are expected to need every one of their votes to advance President Joe Biden's progressive agenda. Manchin, who is one of the most popular politicians in West Virginia, is likely to be the swing vote on a number of hot button issues, and Democrats know that keeping him on board is vital to advancing anything they might want to accomplish over the next two years.
Which is why Manchin's reaction to Harris' interview might be concerning to the Biden administration. Speaking to WSAZ-TV, which carried the Harris interview, Manchin said, "I saw [the interview], I couldn't believe it. No one called me [about it]. We're going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward, but we need to work together. That's not a way of working together."
Harris had appeared on WSAZ on Thursday night to tout the administration's massive COVID-19 relief plan, which has a price tag of nearly $2 trillion. One of the aspects of the interview that may have irked Manchin occurred when Harris was asked about the administration's claims regarding "retraining" workers who are in the fossil fuel industry to perform other jobs that are more in line with the Biden administration's environmental agenda.
Harris said, "All of those skilled workers who are in the coal industry and transferring those skills to what we need to do in terms of dealing with reclaiming abandoned land mines; what we need to do around plugging leaks from oil and gas wells; and, transferring those important skills to the work that has yet to be done that needs to get done," echoing comments from other Biden administration officials who have suggested that people who are trained in fossil fuel industries can somehow be simply repurposed into making solar panels or the like.
Harris also discussed the thorny issue of oil and natural gas leases, which has been of concern to many West Virginians in light of the importance fracking has assumed in the local economy.
Harris defended Biden's decision to prohibit any new leases on federal land by saying, "The president has been very clear that this is not about any existing leases in terms of coal and what we're doing in terms of oil and coal and federal lands. This is about what we need to do going forward to create more jobs. The president feels very strongly that when we are thinking about saving our environment (...) When you talk to him about climate change, the first thing that he talks about is job creation."
This, as even the interviewer noted, is a refrain West Virginians have heard before, without any results.
Democratic rhetoric regarding fossil fuels has cost them votes in West Virginia before. Hillary Clinton used similar rhetoric in 2016, which was widely credited with causing her to lose the West Virginia Democratic primary in a landslide to Bernie Sanders, and may have contributed to her losing Pennsylvania in the general election to Donald Trump.