Progressive Revolt Against Manchin’s Energy Side Deal Could Snarl Government Funding

More than 70 House Democrats warned leadership against a special deal with West Virginia's Democratic senator to win his Inflation Reduction Act support.
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) helped shape the Inflation Reduction Act's parameters. But with it signed into law, he faces pushback from liberals in the House and Senate over a side deal to ease permitting requirements for energy projects.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) helped shape the Inflation Reduction Act's parameters. But with it signed into law, he faces pushback from liberals in the House and Senate over a side deal to ease permitting requirements for energy projects.
Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

Seventy-two House Democrats, including several committee chairs, warned House leadership Friday not to agree to ease restrictions on new energy projects in the push to keep the federal government funded past Sept. 30.

The warning came in a letter organized by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and follows similar opposition by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate. With Democrats holding paper-thin margins in each chamber, almost any defections on a temporary funding bill vote could cause big problems.

In the face of the existential threats like climate change and MAGA extremism, House and Senate leadership has a greater responsibility than ever to avoid risking a government shutdown by jamming divisive policy riders into a must-pass continuing resolution,” Grijalva said in a statement about the letter.

“Permitting reform hurts already-overburdened communities, puts polluters on an even faster track, and divides the caucus. Now is just not the time,” he said.

Grijalva had been circulating the letter for weeks. Though it was signed by many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, 19 of the signatories were not CPC members, according to a Natural Resources Committee spokesperson, and 13 signers were members of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition. The chairs of the Financial Services, Armed Services and Budget committees were among those who signed.

To keep government agencies open past the end of the government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30, Congress must pass at least a temporary funding bill, known as a continuing resolution. Continuing resolutions generally just keep funding at existing levels and allow the government to operate through a specific date until a longer-term agreement can be reached. But as must-pass legislation, they can and often do become legislative Christmas trees for lawmakers to festoon with other bills that could not pass on their own.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the summer to pass changes in site permitting requirements for new energy projects, including pipelines, in exchange for Manchin’s support of the Democrats’ big climate and tax law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

But with the IRA now signed and Manchin’s leverage gone, Democratic leaders face a tough fight to make good on Manchin’s “sidecar” pact, especially after Manchin angered progressives earlier in the process by causing the climate and tax bill to be stripped of most of its social spending. That would make the continuing resolution route more attractive.

On the Senate floor Thursday, Sanders came out swinging against the permitting changes. “I beg of my colleagues that, at this moment, when the future of the world is literally at stake, that we have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and to tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.”

Manchin said the permitting changes are needed to give time for alternative energy sources to be developed.

“If I thought it was going to be harmful to the planet, I’d never have done it,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“There’s people talking about hydrogen plants, we’re talking about small nuclear reactors, we’re talking about solar farms, wind farms. But we have to have the fossil horsepower that we need right now to run the country,” Manchin said.

The office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who sets the House floor agenda, declined to comment on the letter. With funding set to last only through Sept. 30, the House has only a handful of working days left in the month ― 10 or 11, depending if there are votes Tuesday ― before they’re scheduled to leave Washington and hit the campaign trail until the November midterm elections.

Senior Reporter Arthur Delaney contributed to this story.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that Rep. Raúl Grijalva represents New Mexico. He represents Arizona.

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