Democrats Dump Manchin Energy Permitting Plan From Funding Bill

Democrats Dump Manchin Energy Permitting Plan From Funding Bill

Reuters/Leah Millis

Facing a crippling lack of support on both sides of the aisle, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Tuesday asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to pull a controversial energy permitting reform plan from a funding bill that aims to prevent a government shutdown at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.

Schumer initially included a measure in the funding bill that would speed up the process for providing federal permits for energy infrastructure projects – a provision backed by Manchin but opposed by numerous lawmakers in both parties.

Republicans in the Senate, along with a few Democrats, lined up against the bill. “I'm voting no,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) told Fox News. “I'll put the over/under that maybe 52 senators will vote yes on this, and it's going to take 60. Let's call this what it is, this is the mountaineer kickback, good for West Virginia, horrible for the rest of the country.”

The personal note in that complaint – a reference to Joe Manchin of West Virginia, home of the Mountaineers – is no coincidence. Although Republicans are generally in favor of easing permitting rules for energy projects, many GOP senators are still angry with Manchin for supporting the Inflation Reduction Act, which he helped push over the finish line this past summer.

According to reports in Politico and New York magazine, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is using the funding bill to punish Manchin. “Normally, this would be easy to accomplish on the assumption that virtually all Republicans would favor eased permitting, particularly for fossil-fuel projects, and certainly enough Democrats would go along as well,” New York’s Ed Kilgore writes. But “McConnell has decided that this will be his instrument of revenge against Manchin.”

Still, virtually no one expects a government shutdown on Saturday, and the slimmed-down bill is expected to pass before the Friday midnight deadline.

In addition to funding the government through December 16, the bill would also provide $2 billion in relief spending in response to recent weather disasters, and $1 billion in aid for home heating costs. There’s also money for Afghan refugees settling in the U.S., and a provision that would reauthorize a user fee paid by drug companies that helps fund the Food and Drug Administration.

The bill does not include additional funds for the government response to Covid-19 and monkeypox, however, after Democrats dropped those provisions in the face of Republican opposition.