MATTHEW DALY – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Manchin on Tuesday railed against what he called the “politics of revenge” as liberals in the House and Senate join forces with Republicans to oppose his plan to speed up permitting for gas pipelines and other energy projects.
Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, got a commitment from President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders to include the authorization package in the temporary government funding bill in exchange for his support landmark climate change law.
But weeks after Biden the so-called Inflation Reduction Law was signed last month, Democrats and environmental groups opposed the permitting plan, calling it bad for the country and the climate. Climate hawks like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, along with dozens of House members, say the permitting plan should be left out of the must-pass spending bill.
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Many Republicans agree. Wyoming Sen. John Barasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy caucus, called the permitting agreement a “political payoff” to Manchin, whose vote on the climate bill was critical to the law’s passage.
Manchin’s climate action — including secret talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — “created a lot of evil” among Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters. “There is no particular sympathy on our part for rewarding Senator Manchin.”
At a news conference Tuesday, Manchin expressed surprise at the sentiment, saying he had “never seen” such an example of the “politics of revenge,” with Sanders and “far-left liberals siding with the Republican leadership” to oppose his plan.
“This is revenge against one person — me,” Manchin said.
“I hear that the Republican leadership is upset,” he added. “They’re not going to give Joe Manchin the win. Well, Joe Manchin isn’t looking to win.”
Responding on Twitter on Tuesday, Sanders was defiant.
“The defeat of the big oil deal is not revenge,” he said. “This is about whether we will support 650 environmental and human rights organizations who understand that the future of the planet is renewable energy and energy efficiency by not approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” the near-complete gas pipeline from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia. Manchin’s plan would speed up the pipeline and send legal challenges to another federal court.
Although the legislative text of his permitting plan has not been released, Manchin called the bill “a good piece of legislation that is extremely balanced” and does not “avoid any environmental scrutiny.” Instead, it will speed up the timeline that can take up to 10 years for a major project to win approval.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capita, R-Virginia, has released a similar plan that would speed up environmental permits, but Manchin said his plan should have broader appeal because it would streamline environmental reviews for renewable energy projects as well as fossil fuel projects. Manchin’s plan has the support of Biden and other Democratic leaders.
But the letter, signed by more than 70 House Democrats, criticizes the proposal as a “a dirty deal that goes on behind closed doors, outside of due process of government and the judgment of our families and communities who will be greatly affected by this.”
If passed, “this deal will only make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to locate polluting projects in our communities and perpetuate the industry’s practice of concentrating destructive polluting projects in communities of color and poor communities,” said the letter, led by House Natural Resources Speaker Raul Grijalva from Arizona.
The rift among Democrats could complicate the party’s efforts to focus on major legislative victories this summer — including a climate bill and a separate Act to Grow the Semiconductor Industry and Create More High-Tech Jobs in the United States – heading to midterm elections to determine which party controls the House and Senate.
In the more immediate term, the breakdown tests the ability of Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to contain enough Democrats to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of the month.
Schumer said he would attach Manchin’s proposal to the temporary funding bill, a promise Manchin said Tuesday he expects Schumer to follow through on.
The authorization plan “will be included in” the funding bill to prevent a government shutdown on Sept. 30, Manchin said. When opponents want to shut down the government “because of personal attacks on me, that’s what makes people feel bad about politics,” he added. “It makes me sick.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, R-Maryland, did not directly respond to a question about whether Manchin’s authorization proposal would complicate passage of the government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution.
“We’re going to pass the CR and we’re going to be here as long as it takes,” Hoyer said Tuesday.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
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