Senate Republicans are threatening to sink Sen. Joe Manchin’s side deal on permitting reform, partly because they are still angry over the West Virginia Democrat’s flip-flop on the sweeping climate, health and tax bill that Congress passed last month.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised in late July to add Manchin’s permitting reform legislation to a must-pass end-of-September government funding bill in order to secure Manchin’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, which included hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change.
The initial plan was to pass the stopgap funding measure with permitting reform first in the Senate, putting pressure on House Democrats to go along with it to avoid a possible government shutdown in early October.
But now Republican senators say a continuing resolution combined with Manchin’s permitting reform proposal probably won’t get 10 GOP votes in the upper chamber.
They say there’s little appetite for giving Manchin a big political and policy victory after he shocked them over the summer by announcing a deal with Schumer on the Inflation Reduction Act.
“I don’t think you can count on any Republicans to commit to vote for something they haven’t seen,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who raised concerns about the fact that Manchin hasn’t yet circulated an updated draft of his permitting reform bill.
“Generally speaking, Republicans are for permitting reform. I think given what Sen. Manchin did on the reconciliation bill has engendered a lot of bad blood,” Cornyn added.
Many Republicans felt misled by Manchin after he announced his support for a sweeping tax reform and climate bill only hours after Republican senators voted for a $280 billion chips and science bill — something Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block if Democrats were still actively considering a budget reconciliation bill with tax increases.
“Relationships are important around here and I think people felt like he misled them,” Cornyn said. “There’s not a lot of sympathy on our side for providing Sen. Manchin a reward for his flip-flop on the reconciliation.”
Cornyn and many other Senate Republicans are pushing to replace Manchin’s proposal with permitting reform legislation crafted by his home-state colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), that would do more to speed the approval of fossil-fuel extraction and other projects.
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) also raised serious doubts about the prospect of a short-term government funding measure getting 10 or 11 Republicans votes to overcome a filibuster if Manchin’s permitting reform bill is included.
“I think the more likely way to get an outcome is for them to try and produce 12 Democrats for Capito’s proposal,” Thune said.
Thune warned that passing a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown is “a much heavier lift” if the legislation is first considered in the Senate with Manchin’s proposal as a part of it.
He said Republican support would be much stronger for a stopgap funding measure that included Capito’s version of permitting reform. Republicans have doubts whether Manchin’s proposal goes far enough or whether it would be implemented by the Biden administration.
“We understand based on what we do know that it’s not very strong,” Thune said of Manchin’s language, adding, “there’s a ton of skepticism on our side.”
Until now, most of the attention in Washington on the government funding fight has focused on the strong opposition of House progressives to Manchin’s permitting reform bill.
More than 70 House Democrats signed a letter circulated by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) stating strong opposition to attaching permitting reform to the continuing resolution.
Democratic leaders, however, are sticking with their plan to combine the two measures, betting that House progressives will go along with it at the final moment to avoid shutting down the federal government a month before the election.
While House progressives voiced their opposition to Manchin’s deal with Schumer to combine the government funding bill and permitting reform, they stopped short of pledging to vote against the package.
Schumer, meanwhile, is paving the way to round up as many Democratic votes as possible for his controversial side deal with Manchin.
He is handing environmentalists a modest victory this week by holding a vote to ratify the Kigali Amendment, a global agreement to limit climate-affecting hydrofluorocarbon emissions.
One Democratic senator said ratification of the Kigali Amendment “probably” helps secure the votes of pro-environment Democrats for Manchin’s permitting reform deal because they could then point to another legislative accomplishment aimed at fighting global warming.
Schumer is also giving Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a swing vote on Manchin’s permitting reform proposal, a vote on one of his top priorities this week — the Disclose Act — even though it doesn’t have a chance of passing the Senate.
The Democratic leader separately is upping the stakes of looming vote on a short-term funding resolution by preparing to emergency funding for Ukraine in the legislation.
Democratic senators say the plan is to pass the funding bill late next week and jam the House — assuming the measure goes through with the Manchin language.
Schumer is betting that House progressives would fold in such a scenario, they say. While House progressives have expressed opposition to permitting reforms, they haven’t explicitly pledged to defeat the funding stopgap if it’s included.
But it’s possible that scenario won’t come about if the GOP refuses to provide votes to any measure that includes a win for Manchin.
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, who is negotiating the short-term funding bill, said that it would have an easier time passing without Manchin’s permitting reform attached.
“The cleaner, the better,” he said, acknowledging that many Republicans don’t want to vote for a side deal with Schumer that secured Manchin’s vote for the budget reconciliation bill in August.
Shelby said he personally supports permitting reform but called Manchin’s change of direction on the tax and climate bill “a pretty raw political deal.”