Joe Manchin’s Regulatory Rollback Faces New Obstacle From House Progressives

A key House committee chairman says he doesn’t feel bound by any promise made to the senator to get the Inflation Reduction Act passed.

PHOENIX — A proposal by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to ease permitting restrictions for infrastructure projects — a “sidecar” to President Joe Biden’s big climate and tax law — may face a new hurdle in the House, as progressive Democrats demand that it be voted on separately from any bill to keep the government running.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, told HuffPost that a “Dear colleague” letter is circulating to remove the option of linking the two issues when they come to the House floor.

To keep the government open, Congress needs to pass a temporary stopgap funding bill by Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins, since it hasn’t approved the individual bills that fund federal agencies.

These extensions, called continuing resolutions, generally keep funding at the existing level through a specific date. Because they are must-pass legislation, they also can attract various other provisions that would not be approved on their own.

“Don’t stick it to the keep-the-government-open vote,” Grijalva said Thursday on the sidelines of the Native American Journalists Association’s annual conference in Phoenix, explaining the reasoning behind the letter’s circulation. “That’s not fair.”

“This is not a payback.”

- Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)

“The inclusion of these provisions in a continuing resolution, or any other must-pass legislation, would silence the voices of frontline and environmental justice communities by insulating them from scrutiny,” the letter warns. ”Such a move would force Members to choose between protecting EJ communities from further pollution or funding the government.”

For months, Manchin had held up progress on what eventually became Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act over concerns about cost and whether it would spark inflation. In an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Manchin extracted a promise that a package of permitting reforms would be passed separately from the IRA, which was approved on a party-line vote in early August.

But Senate Republicans are still upset over the way the IRA was passed and may not want to help Manchin’s proposal get Senate approval. Liberals in the House are also wary of it and, without the IRA as leverage, have little incentive to support it.

After Democratic leaders pushed through a big infrastructure bill last year — against the wishes of House progressives — while Manchin whittled down the IRA’s size and scope, the balking of liberals in the chamber could be seen as retaliation.

“This is not a payback,” insisted Grijalva, a former chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a longtime veteran among House liberals.

Instead, he said he did not feel bound by the deal since it was cut in the Senate.

“Nobody in the House that I know of — certainly not committee chairs that I’ve talked to, the rank-and-file members — had any discussion about this so-called reform,” he said. ”So I don’t feel an obligation. I don’t feel like I participated and shook hands.”

Grijalva said Manchin’s changes would run counter to efforts to get government agencies to consult with Native American tribes on regulatory actions that affect them. Grijalva has a bill, the RESPECT Act, to require such consultations and allow tribes to sue in federal court if those talks don’t result in agreement.

Grijalva said that he has revised his bill slightly to take into account feedback from groups like the National Congress of American Indians and that he hopes to vote on it in committee and on the House floor in September.

“That’s the goal,” he said.

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