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Democratic leaders' energy permitting deal with Manchin implodes during rush to avoid shutdown

West Virginia Democrat reached a deal to cast the deciding vote for the Democrats' $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act in exchange for Democratic leaders' promise of a vote on streamlining the energy permitting process.

Published: September 27, 2022 3:48pm

Updated: September 28, 2022 10:19am

The congressional Democratic leadership's energy permitting reform deal with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin imploded Tuesday as lawmakers rushed to avoid a government shutdown.

Manchin had reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last month to cast the deciding vote in favor of the Democrats' $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act in exchange for a promise from Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden to include language streamlining the energy project permitting process in the next spending bill.

Congress needs to pass a Continuing Resolution before Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown. Schumer had said the permitting reform language would be in the CR.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent progressive who caucuses with the Democrats, is the most vocal critic of Manchin's permit reform, pledging to vote against any bill that contains the terms of the agreement Manchin made with Democratic leaders.

Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, along with 70 other House Democrats, wrote a letter to Pelosi this month opposing the inclusion of permitting reform in the CR.

At the last minute on Tuesday, Manchin asked Schumer to remove the permitting reform provisions from the CR due to the backlash. The CR then passed the Senate in a procedural vote. 

The abandoned Manchin deal would have required "relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation" of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a project that Manchin long sought to deliver for his state. It would have also sped up the permit process for energy projects.

Manchin said last week that he knew progressive Democrats would not support permitting reform but thought there would be enough votes from Senate Republicans to overcome that opposition.

"I know there's part of my Democrats, the caucus, and the far-left liberals that Bernie [Sanders] is so proud of, that were never going to be for this," he said. "I knew that. This is bipartisan, it doesn't pass without the Republicans."

Manchin's decision to give Democrats a win with his yes vote on the partisan reconciliation package, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, angered Senate Republicans. 

"Generally speaking, Republicans are for permitting reform," said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn. "I think given what Sen. Manchin did on the reconciliation bill has engendered a lot of bad blood."

West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelly Moore Capito has proposed the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency Act (START), which is her own version of permitting reform. Senate GOP leaders have said they support her version over Manchin's, which shot down the latter's hope of reaching 60 votes with GOP support for his proposal.

"It's like the revenge politics, basically revenge towards one person: me," Manchin said last week.

It is unclear how the Democrat-led House will handle its version of the CR. Given progressive Democrats' opposition to permit reform, it's likely the House will vote on a bill that doesn’t include permitting reform. Manchin was asked last week about Pelosi possibly omitting permit reform language from the House's version of the CR.

"I've had a great relationship with Speaker Pelosi, and I trust her," he said. 

Manchin's popularity has taken a hit since he voted for the reconciliation package. 

In a poll conducted by the Jackson County radio station WMOV 1360 AM and Triton Polling and Research from Aug. 24-26, 66% of respondents had an "unfavorable impression" of Manchin. 

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