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Transcript: Sen. Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation," March 5, 2023

Manchin says he supports rail safety legislation
Sen. Joe Manchin says he will support proposed bipartisan rail safety legislation 08:50

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Joe Manchin that aired on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, March 5, 2023. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to begin the show with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who joins us from Charleston, West Virginia. Good morning to you, Senator. I want to start on--

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Good morning, Brennan. Thank- Margaret, thanks for having me. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on that derailment. The President last week praised bipartisan railway safety legislation that would have new rules for trains carrying hazardous materials, increase fines for safety violations, phase in newer cars. Will you vote for it? Is that sufficient?

SEN. MANCHIN: Yeah, so I'm going to be supporting that. We need to do it. Back in 2015, in Mount Carbon, in West Virginia, we had a derailment, 27 cars, tanker cars carrying Bakken oil, fell- went off the tracks and derailed and exploded and caused a tremendous problem there, and it was very, very dangerous. It could have been a little- a lot worse, if it had been a little farther down the tracks could have torn up a whole town. But with that, you know, we were recommended that the electronic pneumatic brakes should be something- should be considered that might prevent this, routine maintenance checks and auditing and things of this sort. I don't think any of that has been done. And it's time for us to get serious about this. We're moving many, many products, many more products on the rails and on our roads than we ever did before. And we have a lot of people who don't want any pipelines. Pipelines would help alleviate a lot of this problem with the oil that we need in our country and we will be using for quite some time to do it safer. But out of sight out of mind they thinking, if you don't have a pipeline, you won't be using the product. Well that's far from the truth. And this is the results of people just not making good decisions. And it's what's broken in- in- in West Virginia and- and--


SEN. MANCHIN: It's what's broken across the country as far as in Washington, the politics. 


SEN. MANCHIN: It's broken, it needs to be fixed. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to come back to energy in a moment. You're saying it's broken. You gave a pretty fiery speech a few days ago in Senate. You're at odds with the White House and with many in your own party because you are saying that Democrats need to talk about out of control spending and are refusing to negotiate. You did ding Republicans for not offering specific cuts. If you are the deal maker, you seem to be positioning yourself there, where is it that you see room for negotiation?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, Margaret, first of all, I encourage Speaker Kevin McCarthy, I was hoping that he would, first of all take things off the table that doesn't cause a conflict, but most- most importantly, sit down with the President and reached out to the White House, they did sit down, had a meeting. I'm encouraging much more of that. But where we can do is can't we get together and just talk about how do we have this much debt accumulated this- and this short of a period of time, within 10 years, Margaret, we have accumulated the greatest amount of debt in the history of our country in the shortest period of time. Can't we at least find out what we did and how we expanded? I know that COVID did so much of it. But you know, we're past the COVID--


SEN. MANCHIN: problems. And what we need to do is to get back to normal, but we've gone from $3.5 trillion in spending to over $6.2 trillion in spending every year in the last 10 years. That's just unacceptable. You've got to sit down. Anybody that thinks we don't have a problem in Washington, anybody that thinks that the politics is not broken in Washington is not living in reality does- does not want to face the facts--


SEN. MANCHIN: - and the truth. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So- so what is the truth here? Because Social Security and Medicare make up nearly 40% of spending in 2023. If no one is touching those programs, where are you finding the cuts?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, first of all, just do our job on time. We've been told that if we just had a budget done, we don't even have a budget anymore. The President's is- is a month late in putting his budget out, which will come out next week. But I don't see the House or the Senate bringing a budget forward. And basically by a piece of legislation was passed back in 1985, we're supposed to have our budgets--


SEN. MANCHIN: - from the House and the Senate done by April, the first. The President basically submits his in February. And by September the 30th. I'm told there's billions and billions of dollars of savings, just right there if we just do it on time. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. But that's not - 


SEN. MANCHIN: That's why I say it's not working. That's- 


SEN. MANCHIN: gets a downward trajection basically, and-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, more has to be done-- 

SEN. MANCHIN: How about capping some of the-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: done than that. I mean--



SEN. MANCHIN: capping some of the discretionary spending. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You okay, well, there's a lot to talk about right there. But I want to ask you, what is Joe-- What is Joe Manchin looking for in this deal? Are you looking for your permit- permitting reform, for example, that Democrats didn't deliver on though they had told you that you would have an agreement on? Are you looking for that to be tucked into a potential bill, in this agreement that you're saying has to be struck between Republicans and Democrats?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, rather tucking something in, we're not trying to hide anything basically we don't do permitting and we're not permitting reform in America, we're not going to meet the challenges and be energy independent energy secured. If you're not energy secured, you're definitely not going to be a superpower of the world. And depending on other parts of the world, to provide what you won't do for yourself. That has to be done. I don't care what side of the arena you're on if you want transmission, if you want pipelines, if you realize we're going to have a balanced energy proposal, that's what the Inflation Reduction Act was for energy security, the administration, this administration has touted that as strictly an environmental bill. It's good for the environment. But it's also very, very necessary for us to have the fossil energy using it better and cleaner than anywhere in the world, to have the security we need. That's what we need to do. And that's what they've been avoiding. 


SEN. MANCHIN: You have to have permitting, if not all this is going to be voided. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about what appears to be some separation between you and the President. You were quoted a few days ago as saying, "We're just in different ball games, we're not even in the same ballpark on many things." Are you going to endorse Joe Biden if he runs for reelection?

SEN. MANCHIN: Oh, there's plenty of time for the election. This is the problem with America right now. We start an election every time there's a cycle coming-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, he's the leader of your party.

SEN. MANCHIN: I- I- No, the bottom line is, let's see who's involved. Let's wait until we see who all the players are. Let's just wait until it all comes out. My main purpose right now is to work for my country and my- and my state. That's my responsibility. I'm not going to make my announcement for anything until the end of the year. I'm not going to make a decision, what my political position is going to be or where I'm going to do for my political future. I won't do it until the end of the year. I got too much work to do now. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your political future? You mean the question of whether you personally are going to run for re-election in the Senate in West Virginia. Your Republican Governor Jim Justice says he's going to run for your seat or he thinks he's got a good shot at it. Why haven't you made up your mind?

SEN. MANCHIN: As to- the bottom line, I got plenty of time to make up my mind. The election is not until November 2024. We don't even file until January of 2024. 


SEN. MANCHIN: And to be running and basically not basically looking at the problems you have. We've got a runaway debt, we got inflation--


SEN. MANCHIN: - that's killing people. We've got an unsecured energy. We have a border that's out of control. You're telling me we're in the same ballgame, in the same ballpark? I don't think so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said let's see who all the players are when it comes to running for president. You've said you're not running for president. Is that an open question, though? Who? Who do you think? 

SEN. MANCHIN: I didn't say that. I didn't say anything about that. The bottom line is I will make my political decision in December, whatever it may be. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: To run for President? 

SEN. MANCHIN: I'm not taking anything off the table, and I'm not putting- and I'm not putting anything on the table. I said I'll make a decision in Jan- at this - at the end of this year. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You'll make a decision at the end of this year as to--

SEN. MANCHIN: Simply that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: - as to who you will endorse for president--? 

SEN. MANCHIN: What my political future will be. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: No but for president--?

SEN. MANCHIN: What I will be involved with, how I'll be involved. I will be making any decisions I make politically will not be done until the end of the year. I'm focused on fixing what's wrong with Washington and the politics are so toxic. The more you talk about this party, that party, what candidate and this candidate. Look at what you have facing you right now. You've got inflation. You've got basically energy. You've got this unsecured borders. You've got geopolitical unrest, and we're talking about everything but that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We are- we have a lot to talk about and Senator Manchin, you're welcome back. We got to leave it there because--

SEN. MANCHIN: I'm happy to come back, Margaret, anytime.

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