Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is reportedly headlining a fundraiser Friday hosted by a group of mostly Republican donors, including top executives in the energy sector, as he holds the deciding vote on much of the Democrats’ agenda.
The event’s hosts include executives at Texas-based oil and gas companies, including ConocoPhillips and the pipeline companies Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Products, according to an invitation published by the Texas Tribune.
Most of the hosts have donated heavily to Republican candidates in recent cycles – including former President Donald Trump – with some giving exclusively to the GOP, according to Federal Election Commission filings reviewed by Forbes.
One outlier in the group is Bill White, a Democratic donor and former mayor of Houston who now serves as chairman of the financial advisory firm Lazard Houston.
The makeup of the group epitomizes progressive criticism of Manchin’s admitted friendliness with the oil industry, which reached a fever pitch earlier this month after an ExxonMobil lobbyist singled out Manchin as an ally with open lines of communication.
The fundraiser also offers a rare glimpse into the 73-year-old senator’s plans for his political future: he has not declared publicly whether he will run for reelection in 2024, though he said in May returning home to West Virginia is “not a bad option.”
Forbes has reached out to a Manchin spokesperson for comment.
“Senator Manchin is the Chair of the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. More importantly he is a longtime friend, since his days as Governor of West Virginia,” the invitation tells potential donors, adding, “Let’s stand up for Joe, our Bipartisan Senate Leader for Energy.”
As the most conservative Democrat in a Senate divided evenly along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker, Manchin holds immense sway over his party’s agenda – and he has been willing to make use of that power. In March he ground the Senate to a halt to get concessions from his party on unemployment benefits in a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which he later voted for. He also sank Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget over social media posts in which she attacked Republicans.
$3.5 trillion. That’s the size of the spending package Senate Democrats want to pass through budget reconciliation, a procedure that allows them to bypass the need for 10 Republicans to break a filibuster, but which requires all Democrats on board. Manchin has railed against the amount of climate spending in the plan, but he also told colleagues he doesn’t want to be a roadblock to passing it.
Manchin’s fundraiser comes one day after he met with a group of Democratic Texas legislators who fled their state this week to stop Republicans from passing a restrictive election law. Both Manchin and the legislators came away from the meeting expressing agreement on voting rights, but Manchin also reaffirmed his commitment to preserving the filibuster, which will likely be used by Republicans to block any effort by Democrats to pass election reform legislation.