Manchin caves, Senate advances continuing resolution without permitting reform

The plan faced opposition from progressive House Democrats over climate concerns.

Published: September 27, 2022 5:21pm

Updated: September 27, 2022 7:15pm

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Tuesday asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to remove his energy permitting reform plan from a continuing resolution in the face of bipartisan opposition.

Schumer promised that he would "continue to have conversations about the best way," to advance Manchin's plan by the end of the year, per Politico. Senate Republicans were poised to block the continuing resolution amid concerns about the Manchin proposal attached to it.

The Senate ultimately advanced the resolution without the permitting reform plan in a 72-23 vote, per NBC. The funding measure will keep the government operating until Dec. 16, pending a longer term funding plan.

The Tuesday concession leaves Manchin looking rather foolish after caving on a major policy position in exchange for what has amounted to an empty promise from his party.

The West Virginia Democrat announced in late July that he had struck a deal with Schumer in which he would trade his vote on the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act for a separate deal streamlining the approval process for energy infrastructure projects. In particular, Manchin sought to curb local review of such projects and thereby advance the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is planned to run through his state.

The plan faced opposition from progressive House Democrats over climate concerns. More than 70 House Democrats, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., signed on to a letter voicing their opposition to the deal, arguing that since they were never party to Manchin's agreement with Schumer, they are not bound to its terms.

"We sure as hell don't owe Joe Manchin anything now," Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said in late August, shortly after the Inflation Reduction Act's passage.

In the Senate, Manchin's effort faced opposition from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, who derided the plan as a "giveaway" to the fossil fuel industry. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine was a prominent Democratic opponent of the plan. Kaine specifically cited his opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the approval of which would likely occur following passage of the permitting reform.

Despite stiff intra-party opposition, Manchin has largely blamed Republicans for opposing the bill, noting that they previously had supported similar measures. The West Virginia Democrat decried the GOP for playing "revenge politics" by blocking permitting reform to punish him for backing the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Throughout the process, Manchin had been adamant that the plan was both needed and would secure enough GOP support to pass. Many Republicans, however, expressed concern that the permitting reform plan Manchin introduced was an extremely narrow measure geared specifically toward approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline and offered little in the way of far-reaching reform on the wider issue.

"I'm trying to understand whether Sen. Manchin's proposal really is permitting reform," said Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy prior to the plan's failure.

"I think it does as much harm as good, if it does any good at all," Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said of the effort. "If you own a pipeline in West Virginia, it's really great. Other than that, I don't see a lot of value to it."

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