- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2022

An annual defense policy bill negotiated by Republicans and Democrats that was unveiled Tuesday evening did not include controversial energy legislation pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin III amid bipartisan pushback.

The exclusion of a permitting proposal by the West Virginia Democrat in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) dealt another major blow to pass his legislation that seeks to fast-track energy projects of all forms and approve the long-stalled Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in his home state.

Mr. Manchin was forced in September to remove his bill from must-pass government funding legislation to avert a shutdown.

Mr. Manchin, who also is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, blasted his congressional colleagues for not including it in the NDAA, saying in a statement that America’s “energy infrastructure is under attack” and that the country’s “energy security has never been more threatened.”

“The American people will pay the steepest price for Washington once again failing to put common sense policy ahead of toxic tribal politics,” he said. “This is why the American people hate politics in Washington.”

Democratic leadership was pushing to include his permitting bill in the NDAA, must-pass legislation that Congress is eyeing to approve before leaving for the holidays later this month.

However, dozens of House progressives were threatening to tank the NDAA if Mr. Manchin’s proposal was included, as members from both parties argued a defense bill was an inappropriate avenue for an energy proposal.

Rep. Jared Huffman, California Democrat and a self-described climate hawk, described the permitting proposal as a “Manchin s— sandwich” because it boosted fossil fuels, as well as clean energy, thereby undercutting Democrats’ climate change agenda. 

“This is a zombie that will not die. It’s going to be back again and again,” he told The Washington Times. “That just means we got to keep killing it.”

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat and House Natural Resources Committee chairman, said the party can rest easy in the final days of this Congress knowing that “the Dirty Deal has finally been laid to rest.”

“House Democrats can now close out the year having made historic progress on climate change without this ugly asterisk,” he said in a statement. 

Although Republicans support permitting reform to increase domestic energy production amid volatile prices, they thought Mr. Manchin‘s bill did not go far enough to rollback environmental red tape. 

Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Democrats for trying to include his proposal and separate marijuana-related legislation in the NDAA.

“We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities, like making our financial system more sympathetic to illegal drugs or permitting reform in name only that’s already failed to pass the Senate earlier this year,” the Kentucky Republican said.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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