Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat whose moderate positions and perch atop the Energy and Natural Resources Committee made him a pivotal player on energy and climate issues, announced Thursday that he will not seek another term.
Manchin arrived in the Senate in 2010 after winning a special election to replace legendary Sen. Robert Byrd, who died that year. Since then, West Virginia politics have drifted to the right and Manchin’s centrist views have not been enough for Mountain State voters increasingly loyal to the GOP.
“I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate,” Manchin said in a video message posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.
“But what I will be doing,” he continued, “is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
Manchin, whose family has earned millions of dollars from coal processing, has often butted heads with members of his own party, particularly on energy policy.
Those differences came to a head in 2021 when he opposed Democrats’ $1.7 trillion social spending bill known as the “Build Back Better Act,” effectively killing what would have been an unprecedented climate and social spending package.
Last year, however, he sided with the rest of his caucus in casting the swing vote in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act and its $370 billion in climate and clean energy spending.
Manchin helped craft major provisions in the bill, including on methane fees, and hoped the bill’s name and more modest approach would protect him politically.
However, polls showed his approval rating taking a dive after the IRA passed. Polling this year from Morning Consult shows Manchin as one of the least popular senators.
Manchin has often clashed with other Democrats and the president on the implementation of certain Inflation Reduction Act policies — most notably around electric vehicle tax credits. He has also touted the bill’s benefits to fossil fuels.
Still, other polls show Manchin trailing Gov. Jim Justice, the Democrat-turned-Republican running for the Senate sat.
“When America is at her best, we get things done by putting country before party, working across the aisle and finding common ground,” Manchin said in his statement Thursday. “Many times, this approach has landed me in hot water, but the fight to unite has been well worth it.”
Manchin has teased the possibility of running for president, including on a third-party ballot, but did not say Thursday whether he plans to formally pursue a White House bid.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) has long been seen as a potential replacement to Manchin as top Democrat on Energy and Natural Resources.
Fellow West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, thanked Manchin for his “years of service” in a statement Thursday.
“I’ve enjoyed serving alongside you — our senior senator,” the Republican said. “And as you said, we still have much work ahead of us. Thank you for your friendship, Joe. I look forward to that continuing.”
In a statement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said, “We like our odds in West Virginia.”