As House progressives block Manchin deal with Dems on oil and gas permitting, he blames GOP

West Virginia Democrat is lashing out at GOP leaders for "revenge politics."

Updated: September 22, 2022 - 12:11pm

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In August, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer under which the coal state lawmaker would cast the deciding vote in favor of Democrats' $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act in exchange for a promise from Democratic leaders to include language streamlining the oil and gas permitting process in the next continuing resolution.

Now that House progressives are blocking the inclusion of permitting reform in the CR, Manchin is lashing out at GOP leaders for "revenge politics," blaming them for failing to deliver Republican votes to uphold the promise Schumer made to obtain Manchin's vote for a budget-busting tax and spending bill opposed by every member of the Senate Republican caucus.

"The so-called ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ would actually increase inflation in the short term and do nothing for inflation in the long term. That’s from the University of Pennsylvania," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said last month. “Number two: Their tax hikes would shatter President Biden’s promise not to impact households earning below $400,000."

Schumer previously told reporters that he intends to include permitting reform language in the continuing resolution that Congress has to pass before Sept. 30 to keep the federal government funded.

Manchin said on Tuesday that nothing has changed in the agreement that he reached with Democratic leaders on permitting reform.

Announcing his support for the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act in July, Manchin said Schumer, President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had "committed to advancing a suite of commonsense permitting reforms this fall that will ensure all energy infrastructure, from transmission to pipelines and export facilities, can be efficiently and responsibly built to deliver energy safely around the country and to our allies."

Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva and more than 70 other Democrats wrote a letter to Pelosi earlier this month opposing the inclusion of permitting reform in the CR.

Manchin addressed the mounting opposition from Democrats to the agreement he struck with Democratic leaders.

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

Manchin applauded his West Virginia colleague, GOP Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, for proposing the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency Act (START), her own version of permitting reform, which Senate Republican leaders are supporting. 

"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."

Manchin argued that his version of permitting reform is "pretty much in line" with the Capito proposal. The full language of his plan will be released in the coming days.

Republicans "support permitting reform," Manchin said. "How in the world do you go home and explain, 'Well, this wasn't perfect enough, so the perfect will be the enemy of the good when you've had no movement.'"

Manchin said the GOP-led Congress under former President Trump didn't reform the permitting process so energy projects could be approved faster. Even if the Congress flips to the GOP in the midterm election, Biden will still be president, Manchin noted.

Under the parameters of the agreement with Manchin, Congress would "require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation" of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is a project that Manchin has long sought to deliver for his state.

Manchin said the pipeline would increase production and help lower energy costs for consumers. The cost of the pipeline ballooned from $3.3 billion to over $6.2 billion due to costs related to the existing permitting process, he added.

"I'm just saying we're looking at it in a reasonable, responsible way," Manchin said. "Take me out of it, it shouldn't be revenge. If Bernie's upset with me, fine, I understand that. But let's look at the American public. This is what makes people sick about politics. It makes me sick about it." 

Manchin said he's not looking for a political victory but thinks speeding up the permit process for energy projects like the pipeline would be a win for the public.

"It's like the revenge politics, basically revenge towards one person: me," he said. "And I'm thinking, 'This is not about me.'"

Manchin was asked about the possibility of Pelosi stripping the permit reform language from the CR in the House.

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

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