Manchin Pulls Curtain Back on Battle for EV-Boosting IRA

The West Virginia senator says the Biden Admin.’s Inflation Reduction Act wouldn’t have gotten his support had Russia not invaded Ukraine.

Roger Schreffler

July 2, 2024

4 Min Read
Manchin says he wouldn’t have backed IRA if not for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Reviled by many Democrats for almost singlehandedly sabotaging the party’s Build Back Better initiative two years ago, Sen. Joe Manchin (I-WV), who chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and isn’t seeking re-election, is singled out here as the man who “will go down in history” for making the Biden Admin.’s signature Inflation Reduction Act happen.

That assessment comes from Benchmark CEO Simon Moores, who in introducing Manchin as a speaker at the recent Benchmark USA 2024 conference, calls the IRA “legislation that changed everything” in the drive to build a market and infrastructure for electric vehicles in the U.S.


Manchin tells the conference his backing of the IRA almost didn’t happen.

“There would not have been an IRA bill if it hadn’t been for the Ukrainian war,” he admits. “When I saw that Vladimir Putin had weaponized fuel against our allies in Europe, I was concerned, because like the old song about ‘looking for love in all the wrong places,’ I felt people were looking for energy in all the wrong places. That’s what got me to the table.”

Manchin takes substantial credit for personally blocking the Build Back Better plan that preceded the IRA and companion infrastructure bill, joining Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-AZ) in opposition.

“It was massively expensive,” he says. “I don’t know what the top figure would’ve been, but I can guarantee you it would have been north of $6 trillion and would have led to a tremendous downturn of our economy and probably a depression.”

What the public didn’t know or didn’t believe, according to Manchin, is that he was working behind the scenes for the better part of a year to break the bill into two parts, one for infrastructure, the second to build a battery supply chain, while substantially gutting such provisions as family home leave and free community college, upsetting many in the progressive wing of the party.

“In the end, we did two bills,” he says. “We did the bipartisan infrastructure bill (the Infrastructure and Jobs Act), which we pulled out of the (Build Back Better bill), and then later the Inflation Reduction Act, which should have been named the Energy Security Act.”

Manchin tells the audience he “traded a vote” for the $1 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which passed and was signed into law in November 2021.

Several months earlier, he and Sinema joined Senate Democrats to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution for fiscal 2022, which made it possible to take future votes on so-called reconciliation issues between the House and Senate on a straight majority basis, thus avoiding a likely filibuster by Senate Republicans. The House, where there is no filibuster procedure, had a small Democratic majority. Manchin and Sinema are registered as independents but caucus with Democrats.

That vote, which was on straight party lines on Aug. 10, 2021, was the key to eventually passing the IRA.

“I couldn’t get my head around the (Build Back Better plan) and I told the president, ‘Sir, this piece of legislation, which you call your marquee piece of legislation, is going to change the psyche of our nation.’”

Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine changed things. And in March, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) began working in earnest to come up with a compromise.

“After several months of back and forth I just said, ‘Listen, if this is where you want to go and you’re building your whole business model on reimbursements of $7,500 of federal tax dollars (in the form of a tax credit), then here’s how we’re going to do it.

“‘The first $3,750 will be for developing a reliable supply chain for critical minerals. That means basically sourcing from North America and countries we have free-trade agreements with. We have four countries we’re very concerned about and call them Countries of Particular Concern, which are China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. They’re never going to have our best interest. They’re never going to ensure a supply chain with no interruptions. They’re going to use it for an advantage.’

“Putin showed us what he would do. I guarantee that (China President) Xi Jinping would do the same. I wasn’t going to get caught in that. So that’s how we put that into the bill. That was for sourcing and production of critical minerals.

“Then the manufacturing of the anodes and cathodes and building the batteries, which had to be in North America, that was the other $3,750.”

Driving home the urgency to act, Manchin warned that China controls 90% of global cathode material and 97% of anode material production. “We’ve let these things leave the country for far too long,” he says.

Grading the bill, which was signed into law on Aug. 16, 2022, Manchin says, “Although inflation is still higher than what it should be for food and transportation, we basically brought it down to the 3.5% range and we’ve got gasoline in the $3.50 range.

“So, it did do what it was supposed to do. Last year we produced more energy than ever in the history of the United States: 38 trillion cu.-ft. of natural gas, 4.7 billion barrels of oil. We’ve done more solar than ever before.

“So, it is working.”

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