No wonder people are losing faith in government

It is no wonder that for a time last year, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., considered getting out of Washington and going back into politics at the state level. If you wonder why he did, contrast the can-do bipartisanship in Charleston with the politics-at-all-costs atmosphere in Washington.

Fortunately for our state, Manchin decided to tough it out in the Senate. But what happened there this week, on an energy bill important to the nation, may have made him wonder if he made the right choice.

Manchin co-sponsored the bill, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. It is in pursuit of his cherished “all of the above” national energy policy. In essence, the proposal promotes efforts against climate change and emphasizes the importance of alternative energy sources — but also recognizes the United States cannot abandon reliable, cheap fuels such as coal, natural gas and petroleum. Key facets of the plan call for more advances in making fossil fuels more environmentally sustainable.

As The Associated Press reported, the bill is “widely supported in both parties …” But on Wednesday, the AP was forced to report that the measure had stalled in a dispute over a relatively minor point.

Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, have become a sticking point. The product is used in cooling equipment such as refrigerators and air conditioners, but is viewed as a factor in climate change. There seems to be general agreement use of HFCs needs to be phased out.

But a coalition of senators, both Republican and Democrat, want to write new HFC language into the Manchin-Murkowski bill. A significant number of other lawmakers disagree with that.

So, on Wednesday, a procedural vote on advancing the bill failed.

Why not advance the Manchin-Murkowski plan without new language, then argue about HFCs in a later bill? Why should a last-minute obstacle be permitted to derail a major energy policy measure?

As Murkowski noted, talk about HFCs is “an unrelated dispute that was never part of our discussions in the lead-up to this floor process.” She noted that 70 senators chipped in on the bill.

This is crazy. A disagreement that, in all likelihood, could be worked out in most state legislatures is stalling a bill important to all Americans.

No wonder people are losing faith in government.


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