Sen. Joe Manchin dismisses critics and embraces the role of “hero and villain.”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) β€” Sen. Joe Manchin said he doesn’t consider criticism or campaign donations when making decisions about what’s best for West Virginia.

The conservative Democrat, who sounded a little exasperated, said no when asked if the sharp increase in contributions he’s received in recent months from oil and gas companies had influenced his vote.

During a roundtable discussion in Charleston on Friday, he said his office’s role in development of a broad economic package signed this week by US President Joe Biden, has made him a target of the “far left”, environmental activists and the fossil fuel industry at the same time.

“Nobody in their right mind would have gone through what I’ve gone through with my staff over the last eight months, taking all the crap we’ve taken from everybody in the country,” if they weren’t doing what they thought was the right thing to do, he said. .

“I can be both a hero and a villain during a 24-hour shift,” he said. β€œThe bottom line is that I don’t make excuses for what I think is right. I’ve always said this β€” if I can explain it, I can vote. I can take the criticism that I know comes with these voices. That’s part of the game.”

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, offered the key vote needed to pass the Democrats’ flagship climate and health care bill in the Senate 50-50. The House followed the party line by a 220-207 vote in favor to pass legislationwhat a biden signed on Tuesday.

The law, which caps prescription drug prices for seniors and expands subsidies designed to help Americans pay for health insurance, includes billions in clean energy incentives. Thanks in large part to Manchin’s influence, he also offers renewed support for traditional fuel sources like coal and natural gas, with moves like subsidies for technology that reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

“I wasn’t sure they would ever agree because my friends on the left, the environmental community, were totally committed to dispersing and essentially eliminating fossil fuels,” Manchin said of the legislation.

But Manchin said it is “impossible to get rid of fossil fuels in a short period of time.”

“You can use it cleaner during the transition, but it’s going to be with us and you have to do what you can with it,” he said. “So I wanted to make sure they understood that.”

On the other hand, he said he is being “criticized by all my friends in the coal industry” because they believe the bill does not go far enough to protect their interests.

“(They) somehow think it’s going to be harmful,” said Manchin, whose family owns Enersystems, a corner brokerage. “I think that’s basically the way forward so that we can continue to produce industry, to provide the energy that our country needs.”

Under a deal with Democratic leadership, Manchin proposed a separate slate of legislation to speed up federal permits and make it harder to block energy projects under federal law. He also asked that federal agencies “take all necessary steps” to expedite the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a project long opposed by environmental activists.

The 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline, now mostly complete, will transport natural gas drilled from the Appalachian Basin through West Virginia and Virginia. Legal battles have delayed construction for nearly four years and doubled the cost of the pipeline, now estimated at $6.6 billion.

This election cycle, Manchin has received more campaign contributions from the gas pipeline than any other member of the U.S. Congress, rising from $20,000 in 2020 to $331,910 in 2022, according to campaign finance records compiled Open secrets.

He said Friday that his agenda in protecting the pipeline is to lower the cost to consumers by increasing the size of the market and creating jobs. He insisted that campaign money had nothing to do with it.

“I understand the cynical part of it. People look at it and say, ‘Well, they’re just looking out for themselves,'” he said. “I feel bad for people, I have no idea who’s contributing. I don’t look at it, I don’t go and advocate for it at all.”

He said lawmakers must “rise above” corporate and partisan pressure to win over their constituents.

“Politics has become a very, very nasty, destructive type of process … both sides are guilty of using guns for the benefit of America for the benefit of the party β€” both sides, and it’s just not right for our country,” he said.

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