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‘Sick of bipartisan corruption’: AOC takes aim at Joe Manchin for ‘huddling’ with fossil fuel lobbyists

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Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Senator Joe Manchin of corruption for holding weekly meetings with ExxonMobil lobbyists.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez made the comments on Thursday in response to an op-ed Mr Manchin wrote in the Wall Street Journal saying he would not support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package aimed at addressing climate change and funding numerous social safety programs. The funding for those programs would largely come from increased taxes on the rich.

“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” Mr Manchin wrote.

The word "climate" does not appear anywhere in Mr Manchin's piece.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez claimed that "Manchin has weekly huddles w/ Exxon & is one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called 'bipartisan' fossil fuel bills."

"It’s killing people. Our people. At least 12 last night. Sick of this “bipartisan” corruption that masquerades as clear-eyed moderation," she said, referencing the historic and deadly floods that swept through New York City and the tri-state area earlier in the week caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

She argued that "fossil fuel corps & dark money is destroying our democracy, country, & planet," noting that New York emergency responders were "pulling bodies out of homes from the flood."

"And we’re supposed to entertain lobbyist talking points about why we should abandon people & do nothing? No," she said.

Republicans are unlikely to sign off on the $3.5 trillion bill, meaning every Democrat would need to vote in favour of the bill in order to secure its passage. Mr Manchin has long been a thorn in the side of fellow Democrats, often voting against the party's interests on the ground of promoting bipartisanship, even though Republicans rarely afford Democrats the same consideration.

Mr Manchin has earned more than $4.5m from coal companies he founded in the 1980's, and holds stock options in Enersystems Inc – one of the firms he founded – that is valued between $1 and $5m.

He has also worked to defend coal ash – a byproduct produced by burning waste coal – by passing a bill in 2016 making it easier for states to deregulate the toxic material.

“The overregulation of coal ash by the EPA would threaten vital industries and unnecessarily cost West Virginia and the nation more jobs,” Mr Manchin wrote in a press release at the time.

Coal ash can contain heavy metals that can enter and pollute groundwater sources.

In response to Mr Manchin calling for Democrats to hit the "pause button" on the $3.5 trillion bill, Ms Ocasio-Cotrez suggested they hit the "'cancel' button on this so-called 'bipartisan' charade of an Exxon lobbyist drafted infrastructure bill" until they pass a bill funding "healthcare expansion, childcare, climate action, etc."

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