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Manchin Departure Creates Opening Atop Energy Committee



November 12, 2023 - Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) decision not to run for Senate next year will create an opening at the helm of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) may be the likeliest candidate to become the panel’s next top Democrat. He’s technically fourth in line in terms of seniority, but the three senators ahead of him already chair other committees. 

Those senators — Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — could technically leave other chairmanships to helm the Energy panel, but could not chair both committees. 

A spokesperson for Wyden confirmed that he intends to keep his spot on the Finance Committee.  

Asked about whether Heinrich is interested in the role, a spokesperson provided a statement from the New Mexico senator in which he doesn’t explicitly say he’s interested — but does tout his credentials. 

“Building America’s clean energy economy, protecting our public lands, and addressing climate change have always been a focus for me and the communities I represent,” Heinrich said. 

“It’s been a privilege to serve on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and I look forward to working with my colleagues as committee leadership decisions are made in the next Congress,” he adds. 

Whoever gets the position, however, may not end up as chair. 

Manchin’s exit from the race makes it more likely that the West Virginia Senate seat will be held by a Republican next year — in turn hurting Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate.