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Manchin drops pipeline permit push, easing government shutdown threat

Sen. Joe Manchin pulled his contentious amendment to speed up energy project permitting from a stopgap spending bill Tuesday, bowing to the inevitable after opposition from both parties threatened a partial government shutdown at the end of this week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on the chamber floor that the West Virginia Democrat had asked for his plan to be removed from the bill and blamed Republicans for the about-face ahead of a test vote on the measure. 

“Senate Republicans have made it very clear they will block legislation to fund the government if it includes bipartisan permitting reform, because they’ve chosen to obstruct instead of work in a bipartisan way to achieve something they’ve long claimed they wanted to do,” Schumer said.

Sen. Joe Manchin
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“Because American families should not be subject to a Republican manufactured government shutdown, Senator Manchin has requested and I have agreed to move forward and pass the recently filed continuing resolution legislation without the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022,” Schumer added.

“It is unfortunate that members of the United States Senate are allowing politics to put the energy security of our nation at risk,” Manchin said in a separate statement. “A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like [Vladimir] Putin who wish to see America fail … Inaction is not a strategy for energy independence and security.”

The spending bill, which would fund the government until Dec. 16, must pass the House and Senate by midnight Friday to prevent a lapse in operations. Manchin’s retreat on the permitting issue means the measure should sail through Congress with little trouble.

The bill passed its initial test vote Tuesday night by 72-23, with all “no” votes coming from Republicans.

Schumer had promised Manchin his proposal would be included in the bill as a reward for his support in passing President Biden’s $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act last month.

However, the amendment faced criticism from both progressive Democrats who said it gives too much away to energy companies, and Republicans bitter over Manchin’s support for the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The last thing we need is a side deal which would build more pipelines and fossil fuel projects that would have substantially increased carbon emissions,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “This is a victory for the survival of the planet and a major loss for the fossil fuel industry.”

Earlier Tuesday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Manchin’s amendment ” a poison pill” and urged lawmakers to​ ​instead back a competing proposal by the Senate’s other West Virginian, Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

Sen. Chuck Schumer

“What our Democratic colleagues have produced is a phony fig leaf that would actually set back the cause of real permitting reform,” McConnell said. “This should be an issue where it should be very easy to improve upon the status quo. But amazingly our Democratic colleagues have managed to write language that would actually, listen to this, make things even worse.”

​​Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said his proposal would speed up the permitting process for projects including the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry natural gas through West Virginia to Virginia.​

The funding bill also ​provides about $12.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine, $1 billion in assistance to low-income families for heating this winter, $20 million to address water quality issues in Jackson, Miss., and billions in additional disaster aid.