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Manchin thinks Obama would back EPA limit

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo Sen. Joe Manchin
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo
Sen. Joe Manchin

WHEELING, W.Va. — Sen. Joe Manchin said Wednesday he believes President Barack Obama would sign “reasonable and moderate” legislation passed by a Republican-led Congress to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory powers.

The GOP will hold leadership of both houses when the 114th Congress convenes Jan. 6, but it does not possess a veto-proof two-thirds majority in either chamber. Even with the help of about a half-dozen Democrats whom Manchin believes will stand with him against the EPA, Republicans wouldn’t have enough votes to override the president.

Although lawmakers may find it difficult to turn back entirely the Obama EPA’s tighter standards on fossil fuel emissions, Manchin believes the president would be open to a measure to invest in clean coal technologies that would make the regulations more achievable, or a bill that would prevent standards from taking effect until they’ve been demonstrated commercially achievable over a period of a year.

Such measures, Manchin said, would set the nation on a path toward an “all of the above” energy policy that acknowledges the role of coal and natural gas in a reliable energy supply.

“There’s more coal being consumed in the world today than ever before. … Whether you like it or not, you have to face facts. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinions but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” he said.

Manchin said he looks forward to next year, and has been working since the election to communicate with Republican leaders his willingness to work across the aisle.

“I hope they do a better job than what we were able to do as Democrats,” Manchin said, “I’m not going to go to extremes. I’m not going to work to the extreme right, and I’m not going to work to the extreme left.”

Manchin addressed several other issues in a year-end conference call with reporters Wednesday, including his votes against the “omnibus” spending bill and the extension of about $42 billion worth of tax breaks.

Manchin was one of only 16 senators – eight Democrats and eight Republicans – to vote against the extensions, which cover dozens of items from deferring U.S. taxes on foreign profits to allowing individuals to deduct state and local sales taxes paid from their federal returns. Many of the extensions are retroactive to the beginning of this year and will expire again at the end of this month, but allow individuals and businesses to claim the deductions on their 2014 returns.

Rather than adjourn, Manchin said, legislators should have remained in Washington for a few additional days to work on more comprehensive tax reform that addresses the nation’s growing debt, which now totals about $18 trillion.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. … It’s really horrific what we’re doing, not fixing the tax problems in our country,” he said. “It will be unpopular but it needs to be done. We can protect Social Security and we can protect Medicare. We need to get rid of the waste.”

Speaking of waste, Manchin said the $1.1 trillion spending bill contained a number of items he could not support, and without the opportunity to amend it on the floor he felt he had no choice but to vote against it.

“We’ve been hearing about how we’ve gutted the Defense Department, and we’re giving them $5 billion worth of new equipment that they don’t want or need, and they’re going to have to maintain it,” he said. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

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