When Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer reached agreement on the FY 2022 budget-reconciliation package soon to be known as the Inflation Reduction Act in late July, Manchin’s Republican colleagues were absolutely beside themselves. They were counting on Manchin to continue his many months of obstruction of the reconciliation bill, perhaps until it finally died but at least until it was laughably small and insignificant. Not only did he cut a deal with his fellow Democrats; he didn’t give Republicans enough warning to enable them to look anything other than foolish and outmaneuvered.
Republicans immediately began talking about taking Manchin down in 2024 for the crime of proving that he really is a Democrat. Unfortunately for the GOP, there’s no guarantee at all that the 75-year-old Manchin will run for another term. If he retires, he could literally have the last laugh. So Mitch McConnell has found a more proximate way to punish the West Virginian for his chutzpah in deal-making (McConnell’s very favorite thing when he’s the one making the deals). Part of the agreement that sealed the Inflation Reduction Act was that Democrats would find a must-pass vehicle for a Manchin proposal to streamline permitting for high-priority energy projects, including some fossil-fuel projects of value to West Virginia and some clean-energy projects that climate-change activists favor. Schumer subsequently chose a stopgap spending bill necessary to avoid a government shutdown by the end of the fiscal year (September 30) as the vehicle for keeping his word to Manchin.
Normally, this would be easy to accomplish on the assumption that virtually all Republicans would favor eased permitting, particularly for fossil-fuel projects, and certainly enough Democrats would go along as well. But, as Politico reports, McConnell has decided that this will be his instrument of revenge against Manchin:
The GOP leader is whipping his members to vote against advancing an effort on Tuesday that would eventually combine a short-term government funding package with the energy permitting legislation. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hope to tie the two pieces of legislation and send them over to the House, allowing Manchin’s legislation to ride along the must-pass legislation. Government funding runs out Friday at midnight.
Schumer has indicated that Manchin has to come up with the votes to proceed to consideration of the combined stopgap spending bill and energy-permitting measure; if he fails, the Manchin measure will be detached and the Senate will move along to vote to keep the federal government open. In that circumstance, there’s little chance for the energy-permitting bill to get through Congress on its own.
McConnell claims simply to prefer a Republican energy-permitting bill sponsored by Manchin’s West Virginia colleague, Shelley Moore Capito. But that legislation has zero chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Congress, and for that matter, Moore Capito has endorsed Manchin’s maneuver. No, this isn’t about energy policy. It’s about punishing Joe Manchin.
The deal will go down in the Senate on a cloture vote on the evening of September 27, and we’ll see if a combination of a few Democratic critics of the energy-permitting bill and Republicans whipped by McConnell can kill Manchin’s proposal. If they can, McConnell had better hope Republicans get control of the Senate in November. If they don’t, he may find Joe Manchin behaving as a Democrat more often.
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