Sen. Joe Manchin III retreated Tuesday under bipartisan opposition to his proposal to fast-track energy projects, pulling the plan from a stopgap spending bill in a move that likely clears the way for Senate passage of the overall measure to keep the government open past Friday.
The move to strip Mr. Manchin’s provision from the must-pass spending bill allowed the conservative West Virginia Democrat to avoid an embarrassing legislative defeat amid solid bipartisan resistance.
Such a public blunder, Mr. Manchin argued, would make the U.S. look weak to adversaries such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It is unfortunate that members of the United States Senate are allowing politics to put the energy security of our nation at risk,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement. “A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like Putin who wish to see America fail.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer agreed to move forward with Tuesday’s procedural vote to advance the spending bill that would fund the government through Dec. 16 without Mr. Manchin’s energy permitting proposal. Originally expected to fall short of the required 60 votes needed to pass, the funding measure is now expected to be approved with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Also included in the stopgap spending measure is more than $12 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, billions for recent wildfires and other natural disasters, and $20 million for the water sanitation crisis that has plagued Jackson, Mississippi.
The inclusion of Mr. Manchin’s unpopular energy provision was part of a deal he struck with Mr. Schumer and the White House in exchange for his crucial support of Democrats’ tax-and-climate-spending law that passed in August.
Mr. Schumer blamed Republicans for nixing Mr. Manchin’s plan, despite several Democrats who were prepared to vote down the legislation.
“Senate Republicans have made 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,” the New York Democrat said.
He vowed to “continue to have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year.”
While Republicans have long advocated for energy permitting reform, they felt the legislation did not go far enough to slash time-consuming environmental regulations and were in no mood to help Mr. Manchin score another policy victory.
“This phony fig leaf is ‘permitting reform’ in-name-only,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “If tepid Democrat support for this phony fig leaf is all that our colleague from West Virginia got in return for approving yet another taxes and spending spree during an inflation crisis, it’s hard to imagine a worse bargain, for a senator or for the country.”
Climate hawks on the far left, meanwhile, argued it would boost fossil fuels and undercut their clean energy spending, despite arguments from supporters that it would offer much-needed help to accelerate the expansion of renewables.