Senate rejects Manchin’s energy permitting amendment

Politics

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is seen during a photo op following the Democratic Senate leadership election for the 118th session of Congress on Thursday, December 8, 2022.

(NEXSTAR) — The Senate has bucked Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) latest effort to get his energy deal with Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) attached to must-pass legislation.

The chamber blocked Manchin’s permitting reform amendment from getting onto a defense funding bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act in a 47-47 vote. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measure. 

Schumer had promised Manchin he would take up the legislation to speed the process for approving new U.S. energy projects in exchange for Manchin’s vote on the Democrats’ major climate, health and tax bill.

The vote did not exactly fall along party lines. Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) voted in favor of the bill. 

Meanwhile Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), as well as liberal Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) voted against it. 

Manchin’s permitting reform effort was expected to help advance both fossil and renewable energy projects, though it has generated pushback from both sides of the aisle. 

The measure was widely expected to fail on Thursday, but the vote provides Manchin a headcount, as he is expected to continue pushing for a compromise deal next year. It also put many Republicans on the record as opposing legislation that would be expected to bolster the energy industry.

Manchin, in a statement following the vote, slammed his Republican colleagues who voted against the measure, saying they put politics ahead of the country. 

“Once again, [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [(R-Ky.)] and Republican leadership have put their own political agenda above the needs of the American people,” he said.

“Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus voted down a bill that would have completed the Mountain Valley Pipeline and quickly delivered natural gas to the market lowering home heating costs for families and making America more energy secure and independent. I believe anyone who voted against permitting reform has failed to act in the best interest of our country,” he added. 

President Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday morning, hours before the vote, throwing his support behind Manchin’s proposal, pitching it as a continuation of Democrats’ efforts to lower costs through the Inflation Reduction Act enacted this fall.

“I support Senator Manchin’s permitting reform proposal as a way to cut Americans’ energy bills, promote U.S. energy security, and boost our ability to get energy projects built and connected to the grid,” Biden said.

Progressive Democrats have raised objections to provisions that they fear will limit community involvement in assessing the potentially harmful impacts of a future energy project as well as those that would advance fossil fuel infrastructure.

Republicans, meanwhile, have said the effort does not go far enough, saying time limits for environmental reviews need to be better-enforced. GOP members have also raised objections to provisions that would enable the federal government to direct the construction of electric transmission lines. 

Some of the bill’s Democratic supporters, in contrast, have cited the transmission buildout as a reason to back the bill, saying this infrastructure is needed for a clean energy future. 

Though Republicans have long lamented red tape that can stall energy projects, they have also expressed hostility to working with Manchin after they felt spurned by his support for the Democrats’ climate and tax bill. They may also be hesitant to give Manchin a win ahead of his 2024 Senate race. 

In addition to broad measures aimed at speeding up the approval process for various energy projects, Manchin’s bill would also direct the approval of a specific natural gas pipeline in his home state of West Virginia. 

Capito, a supporter of Manchin’s effort, said ahead of the vote that she hopes that lawmakers will revisit the issue “after the first of the year.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) who opposed Manchin’s legislation, also said he thinks “we can get there with some compromises.”

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