Manchin takes himself out of running for secretary

Source: Dylan Brown and Hannah Northey, E&E News reporters • Posted: Tuesday, August 22, 2017

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin over the weekend officially scratched his name off the potential list of candidates to be secretary of Energy.

The question now is whether current Department of Energy leader Rick Perry really wants to make the jump to the Department of Homeland Security, according to a former DOE transition official.

Rumors started flying two weeks ago about a double switch that would see Perry replace now-White House chief of staff John Kelly at DHS and Manchin take the top spot at DOE.

The White House and DOE denied the reports, but sources with ties to the administration told E&E News that officials were actively working with congressional GOP leaders to sweeten the deal for Manchin, including funding help for West Virginia’s National Energy Technology Laboratory branch (Greenwire, Aug. 14).

The moderate Democrat was a decisive vote against Republicans’ failed federal health care repeal, and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s recent high-profile party switch to the GOP means a Republican would likely be appointed to fill the Senate seat (E&E Daily, Aug. 4).

Manchin dispelled the rumor at a town hall in Lewisburg, W.Va., Friday and again in a statement the next day.

“I believe that right now, the best way I can continue to serve the people of West Virginia is as United States Senator working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues and this Administration,” Manchin said.

DOE also says Perry “is happy where he is.” The former Texas governor ran for president in 2012 with a far softer stance than Trump on immigration — a key task for Homeland Security. During last year’s campaign, Perry was publicly skeptical of Trump’s promised border wall.

Trump is said to be hunting for a candidate with military experience, stoking rumors that Interior Secretary and former Navy Seal Ryan Zinke is in the mix.

But a former DOE transition official said, “That seems unlikely. He really likes Interior.”

In a statement, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said, “The Secretary is very happy leading the Department of the Interior and has faith the President will select an eminently qualified person to lead Homeland Security.”

Speculation has continued that Republicans may revive negotiations with Manchin, who has been rumored for a post in the Cabinet since Trump dominated West Virginia in November.

But Manchin says he is focused on bipartisan solutions on issues like health care, the opioid crisis and coal miners’ pension instability.

“I still believe that for our country and West Virginia to succeed we must come together as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats,” he said.