West Virginia Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinK Street revenues boom Biden champions economic plan as Democrats scale back ambitions On The Money — Democrats eye tough choices as deadline looms MORE (D), who is gearing up for a tough reelection race in 2018, on Wednesday praised Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE’s controversial pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and called for the “rogue agency” to be reformed.
Manchin applauded Trump’s pick, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, for having “an impressive resume” and argued the EPA “is in desperate need of reform.”
While reserving final judgment on Pruitt, Manchin wrote in a letter to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, made public Wednesday, that he believes “the president should have a chance to pick his team.”
Pruitt’s selection has caused outrage among other Democrats, however, because of his skepticism toward scientific claims of climate change and his record of fighting federal environmental regulations as a state official.
“As attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt has tried to undermine the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, putting the public health of millions of Americans at risk,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing MORE (D-Mass.), a leading Senate voice on environmental issues, said in a statement last week. “He has dedicated years of his career to rolling back the bedrock laws and rules that protect our water and our air.”
Pruitt’s nomination is controversial enough that Democrats might have a chance of picking off some Republicans, such as centrist Maine Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsEmanuel defends handling of Chicago police shooting amid opposition to nomination Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter MORE, to vote against him. She told reporters last week that she was not familiar enough with his record to comment on his suitability for the job.
But Manchin’s statement Wednesday indicates he is at the least open-minded about confirming Pruitt, citing what he called “regulatory overreach by the EPA.”
“I look forward to meeting with Attorney General Pruitt and hearing how he intends to right-size the EPA and refocus it in line with the principles that I have set forth in my years of work on behalf of West Virginians,” he said in his letter to Morrisey.
Manchin noted that he has sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that would repeal or roll back “burdensome regulations” such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and New Source Performance Standards affecting manufacturers of glass, rubber tires and other products.
He cited his support for legislation nullifying regulations promulgated to limit ozone pollution and expand the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
He also touted the lawsuit he backed as West Virginia’s governor against the EPA for cracking down on mountaintop removal mining practices.
“Like all West Virginians, I want clean water and clean air, but these rules ignore common sense and go too far by preventing people from working,” he wrote.
Manchin had flirted with landing a job in Trump’s Cabinet, and Democratic leaders worked behind the scenes to persuade him to stay in the Senate, giving him a platform last week to crusade for a yearlong extension of health benefits for retired miners in the year-end spending bill.
Manchin said Tuesday that he was honored to be considered to head the Department of Energy under Trump but announced he plans to stay in the Senate. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was chosen instead for the post.
“I was humbled to be considered for the Secretary of Energy position. I have dedicated my life in public service to doing what is best for the people of West Virginia. Right now, I believe that I can best serve my state of West Virginia in the United States Senate,” Manchin said in a statement released after he met with Trump.