Manchin’s Energy Bill, Under Fire From Left and Right, Complicates Funding Patch

Manchin’s Energy Bill, Under Fire From Left and Right, Complicates Funding Patch

Al Drago/Pool via Reuters

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) finally released the text of his bill to overhaul federal rules governing the permitting system for energy projects, but the proposal is being criticized by both liberal Democrats and quite a few Republicans, raising serious questions about whether the bill will make it into a must-pass government funding package that is expected to get a vote next week.

The Manchin bill would streamline the process for environmental review of proposed energy infrastructure projects, including a gas pipeline supported by the senator that would run through parts of Appalachia. It would also reduce the time allowed for court challenges of such projects and require the White House to name 25 energy projects that would receive priority in receiving permits.

Dozens of lawmakers have said they will not support the bill if it is attached to the stopgap funding package that Democrats are expected to introduce ahead of an October 1 deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to include the bill in the funding package, an agreement he made with the West Virginia centrist in return for his support of the Inflation Reduction Act.

On Thursday, Schumer set the table for a vote early next week, though the exact contents of the bill are still up in the air.

More than 80 House Democrats have formally asked Schumer to hold separate votes on the funding package and Manchin’s permitting reform proposal. House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said Thursday that while he backs the funding bill, “it becomes very difficult” to support the overall package if Manchin's proposal is included.

In the Senate, Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) say they don’t want Manchin’s bill to be part of the funding package.

Seemingly motivated by anger at Manchin for supporting Democrats’ big climate package, few Republicans support the Manchin bill, despite their long-held interest in passing similar legislation that would benefit the energy industry. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said he doubted the full package could get the required 60 votes. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who has offered her own version of a permitting reform bill, said Thursday she would back Manchin’s bill, but it’s not clear that her support will change any minds on the Republican side of the aisle.

Manchin took note of his opposing forces earlier this week. “I’ve never seen stranger bedfellows than Bernie Sanders and the extreme liberals siding with Republican leadership,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday. “What I’m hearing is that this is like revenge politics, and basically revenge toward one person: me.”

The bottom line: If the fighting over Manchin’s permitting reforms delays a Senate vote, the House could take up the funding bill first next week — without the energy provisions. Either way, most lawmakers will be loathe to allow a government shutdown, making it highly likely that the short-term funding bill passes in time.