early and often

Senators Can Grumble, But Joe Manchin Is Getting His Reward

Chuck Schumer promised Joe Manchin this energy proposal, and he’s trying to deliver. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In case you are planning a fiscal New Year’s Eve party, the last day of FY 2022 is Friday, September 30. In keeping with recent tradition, Congress will need to pass (and President Biden will need to sign) a stopgap spending bill (known as a CR, for continuing resolution) to keep the federal government open beyond that date, since action is still pending on the 12 regular appropriations bills (the House has passed six of them, but the Senate is still at zero).

The Democrats who control Congress are cooking up a CR that would keep Washington functioning until December 16, when Congress is universally expected to be engaged in a postelection “lame duck” session. The CR will need to clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate to avoid the conservative filibuster that typically occurs on all even vaguely controversial legislation. But there’s a loudly buzzing fly in the ointment: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to add in a Joe Manchin proposal to streamline federal approval of certain high-priority energy projects, including both fossil fuel and “clean energy” projects.

The proposal annoys both Republicans who want more sweeping legislation restoring Trump-administration permitting rules (which were very friendly to fossil fuels) and some progressive Democrats who think it’s the wrong time in human history to be subsidizing Manchin’s favorite energy causes. The opposition includes Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, who is unhappy that the proposal would green-light a pipeline going through his state. But the “clean permitting” proposal, as it has been sunnily branded, was one of the concessions made by Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the White House to secure Manchin’s approval of the Inflation Reduction Act, universally regarded by Democrats as a heaven-sent pre-midterm legislative triumph, not least because of its climate-change provisions. Congressional leaders like to keep their promises to their own members. And including Manchin’s treat in must-pass spending legislation is by far the most efficient way to do that.

Despite some bipartisan squawking about this maneuver, the odds are low that Congress will risk a government shutdown to shut down Joe Manchin. For one thing, a lot of climate activists (e.g., Senate Democrats Martin Heinrich, Brian Schatz, and Ron Wyden) support the “clean permitting” proposal on the merits as the only way to get critical clean-energy projects on line expeditiously. For another, the prime sponsor of the Republican alternative proposal, Manchin’s West Virginia colleague Shelley Moore Capito, is now offering support to his effort.

So despite the grumbling, you can expect some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to vote for a CR with Manchin’s proposal, barring some real power play against it. The last thing congressional incumbents want just weeks before facing voters is a demonstration of their fecklessness via a government shutdown. So Manchin will likely get his promised reward, and federal employees will get their paychecks on time.

More on politics

See All
Senators Can Grumble, But Joe Manchin Is Getting His Reward