Sen. Joe Manchin Hopes ‘Common Sense Kicks In’ with Fellow Democrats in Brawl over Energy Deal

The ongoing feud between far-left Democrats and conservative West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin over how to prevent a government shutdown recently intensified as progressive members lobbied leadership to remove Manchin’s legislation from a stopgap funding measure. 

Congress has only a few days remaining before the federal government will run out of funds on October 1 and be forced to shut down. Manchin tamped down the idea that progressives would get their way and get a standalone vote on his reform that would streamline projects. 

“They’re not going to get it,” insisted Manchin. “All sides need [permitting reform]. You can’t build anything in America today. You’re going to have to have this. We’re hoping common sense kicks in sooner or later.”

In return for the senator’s critical vote needed for President Biden’s climate and tax bill to pass, Democratic leaders agreed to hold a vote on Manchin’s permitting proposal before the end of September.

Five progressive senators emphasized their resistance to attaching the must-pass spending bill to Manchin’s proposal, by taking note of dozens of House Democrats who have also expressed their opposition.

The group argued the proposal would hurt disadvantaged communities disproportionately by laying solid groundwork for rapid fossil fuel projects. 

In a letter penned to Democrat Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer the progressive senators told Schumer that “such important issues should be examined through detailed committee consideration and a robust floor debate separate from the urgent need to see that the government stays open.”

The letter was led by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and signed by Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Despite penning the letter, the senators were not specific about whether they were prepared to vote against the government funding bill if Manchin’s permitting reform is included. Signers of the letter repeatedly dodged the question.

Warren asked whether she would be willing to risk a possible federal government shutdown said, “that is not on the table.” Booker laid out concerns from environmental-justice groups, deeming them, “legitimate and valid,” while saying he was grateful that leaders in the Democrat party are continuing to have “constructive conversation” about it.

Additionally, Virginia Democrat Senator Tim Kaine, pledged to reporters to “do everything I can to oppose” the legislation over its approval of Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, which goes through part of his home state.

For his part, Schumer said he intends to keep the stopgap funding attached to Manchin’s legislation and “get it done.”

White House: Biden supports permit reform

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said in a statement that permit reform has the president’s support because it will encourage the clean energy transition. “Today, far too many energy projects face delays — keeping us from generating and shipping critical, cost-saving clean energy to families and businesses across America,” said Jean-Pierre. “This is an important step forward to further unlock the potential of these projects and the good-paying jobs they support.”

In order for the government to remain open past September 30, sixty votes will be require, which may prove difficult if Democrats don’t separate the two pieces of legislation amidst strong pushback by both parties. 

Arizona Democrat Representative Raul Grijalva quickly slammed the energy-permitting proposal after Manchin released the text. “The very fact that this fossil fuel brainchild is being force-fed into must-pass government funding speaks to its unpopularity,” said Grijalva, who is leading the resistance in the lower chamber and serves as the House Natural Resources chairman. “My colleagues and I don’t want this. The communities that are already hit hardest by the fossil fuel industry’s messes certainly don’t want or deserve this. Even Republicans don’t want this.”

Legislators are also grappling with how or if to include several allocations of money that the administration requested for Covid-19, Ukraine, relocating migrants and natural disasters. Meanwhile, Republicans have unveiled a dueling energy permitting proposal, and do not want Manchin to achieve a victory alongside the Democrats’ climate-and-tax law.

A Republican substitute bill by West Virginia Republican, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, “stands in stark contrast to what every indication thus far suggests will be weak reform-in-name-only legislation form her home state colleague,” said Kentucky Republican Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

“As luck would have it, Senator Capito’s real plan is also closer to passing the Senate that Senator Manchin’s reform-in-name-only plan.”Manchin described opposition from both sides of aisle as “revenge politics” which has given way to “strange bedfellows.”