Manchin releases energy permitting bill, hopes GOP, Dems rally around it

Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday released legislative language to ease energy permitting that he wants to include in a must-pass government funding bill, and is now hoping enough Republicans and Democrats can support his plan that he worked out earlier this year with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer, D-N.Y., told Manchin, D-W.Va., that he would include the permitting reform language because Manchin agreed to vote for Democrats’ social tax and spending bill they passed in August. But it faces mounting bipartisan opposition from Republicans who are upset Manchin helped Democrats pass the party-line tax and spending bill, and from progressives who oppose new energy projects.

‘It sounds like he’s gonna lose Democrats and I think I heard somebody say they can’t count more than nine Republicans,’ Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday. ‘That arithmetic doesn’t work.’

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said that he is okay with most of the bill but staunchly opposes language targeted directly at the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline Manchin supports. 

‘Taking one project and saying it doesn’t have to go through any permitting, all the permits get issues, there’s no judicial review, and strip it away from the Fourth Circuit because the company is unhappy with my hometown court?’ Kaine said. ‘No way.’

Kaine did not specifically answer questions about if that provision would force him to vote against a funding bill. 

The release of the language will likely force senators who have been on the fence about supporting the bill to finally decide whether they can accept the permitting reform on the funding bill. The level of support for Manchin’s legislation will likely determine how much government shutdown brinksmanship is in store for the next week.

Congress must pass that bill by the end of the month to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Democratic staffers familiar with the text said the bill tracks very closely with a bill Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., proposed last week, which Republicans have rallied around in recent days. However, Capito’s bill adopts some Trump-era regulations completely while Manchin’s does so only partially.

One provision in Manchin’s bill dealing with the Clean Water Act would reduce several burdens that slow down energy projects, according to the Democratic staffers. But it would also require developers to provide more information to state and tribal agencies on their projects.

Schumer reiterated Tuesday that the permitting reform will be included in the funding bill, and that he’s committed to passing it. Manchin, meanwhile, decried GOP opposition to the deal as a ‘personal attack’ against him.

‘We’re going to vote and it’s going to be in the CR,’ Manchin said. ‘And if they’re willing to say, ‘We’re going to close down the government because of a personal attack on me…’ This is what makes people sick about politics.’

A Democratic aide familiar with the situation argued, ‘it’s going to be very difficult for R’s to defend why they will vote against this. ‘We aren’t going to do Joe Manchin any favors’ is not a good explanation to Americans paying sky-high energy costs.’

Top Republicans are leaning toward Capito’s bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Thursday predicted that Manchin’s bill on energy permitting would be ‘weak’ and reform ‘in name only.’

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told Fox News Digital Wednesday that he hadn’t fully read the bill, but, ‘my sense is it’s inadequate.’ Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., also said she thinks it’s ‘inadequate.’ 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that she supports the Capito bill and does not believe a continuing resolution is an idea vehicle for permitting reform. 

Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report. 

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