Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., put the Biden administration on blast Monday after President Biden carried through with his promise to veto bipartisan legislation that would have killed a regulation that encourages private retirement plan fiduciaries to consider environment, social and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions for over 150 million Americans.
Manchin, who was one of two Senate Democrats to vote with Republicans to nullify the proposed Department of Labor (DOL) rule, issued a heated statement Monday condemning the Biden administration for, in his view, prioritizing politics over securing the best financial returns for Americans. The other was Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
“This Administration continues to prioritize their radical policy agenda over the economic, energy and national security needs of our country, and it is absolutely infuriating,” Manchin said.
“West Virginians are under increasing stress as we continue to recover from a once in a generation pandemic, pay the bills amid record inflation, and face the largest land war in Europe since World War II,” his statement continued. “The Administration’s unrelenting campaign to advance a radical social and environmental agenda is only exacerbating these challenges.”
JOE BIDEN ISSUES FIRST VETO, REJECTING ATTEMPT TO BLOCK ESG EFFORT
“This ESG rule will weaken our energy, national and economic security while jeopardizing the hard-earned retirement savings of 150 million West Virginians and Americans,” Manchin said. “Despite a clear and bipartisan rejection of the rule from Congress, President Biden is choosing to put his Administration’s progressive agenda above the well-being of the American people.”
The White House had given Congress notice that Biden intended to veto the nullification resolution after it passed 216-204 in the House and 50-46 in the Senate.
In a statement accompanying his veto, Biden defended the rule, arguing that it allows retirement plan fiduciaries to make “fully informed” investment decisions.
“There is extensive evidence showing that environmental, social, and governance factors can have a material impact on markets, industries, and businesses. But the Republican-led resolution would force retirement managers to ignore these relevant risk factors, disregarding the principles of free markets and jeopardizing the life savings of working families and retirees,” the president said.
WHAT IS ESG? INVESTING WITH ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE IN MIND
Biden argued that retirement plan fiduciaries should be able to consider factors such as the “physical risk of climate change” or “poor corporate governance” when making investment decisions and said this rule will enable them to do so.
ESG standards are increasingly used by investors and asset managers to guide their decision-making.
The environmental factors considered often include how a corporation contributes to pollution or climate change. Social criteria examine a company’s relationship with employees, ethics, engagement with nonprofits and stake in the community. Governance considers the corporation’s leadership, overall ethics and standards, and it includes the makeup of the board of directors and the recipients of their donations.
Lawmakers opposed to the DOL rule have said ESG standards advance a left-wing political agenda in business and have expressed fears that so-called “woke” corporations and investors will bully firms that do not comply with that agenda. Those in favor of ESG standards, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have said if the free market wants to use ESG factors for investing, politicians should not interfere.
DEMOCRAT-LED ESG RULES WILL ‘KILL’ MAIN STREET, CEO WARNS
“ESG opponents are trying to turn it into a dirty acronym, deploying attacks they have long used for elements of a so-called woke agenda. They call ESG wokeness. They call it a cult. They call it an incursion into free markets,” Schumer wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. “We’ve heard it all before. I say ESG is just common sense.”
With Biden’s veto, the nullification resolution heads back to Congress, where two-thirds in both chambers of the legislature are required to override the president’s veto. It was the first veto of Biden’s presidency, and it does not appear ESG opponents have enough votes to undo it.
Fox News’ Kelly Laco and Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.
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