- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A growing number of House Democrats is warning of a government shutdown in their opposition to Sen. Joe Manchin III’s energy plan.

Senate leaders plan to attach the West Virginia Democrat’s yet-to-be-released legislation to a must-pass stopgap spending measure by the end of the month to prevent the federal government from shuttering, a move that dozens of far-left members and climate hawks in the House are threatening to bat down.

Their numbers have grown in recent days from 72 to 77, underscoring the desire among Democrats to betray Mr. Manchin.

Leaders promised him that Congress would pass a bill that would streamline energy projects of all forms in exchange for his support of the party’s tax and climate spending law.

“The opposition is loud and only getting louder,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva said in a statement that accompanied a second letter to Democratic leaders on Monday.

Mr. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, is leading the charge against Mr. Manchin’s energy plan, arguing that it would only spur more domestic fossil fuel production and undermine the $370 billion for climate action in Democrats’ tax and climate law.

He is demanding a standalone vote on permitting reform to “let these dirty permitting provisions stand up to congressional scrutiny on their own.”

“I encourage leadership to listen to its caucus and keep us out of a shutdown standoff that nobody wants,” Mr. Grijalva said. “Now is not the time to roll the dice on a government shutdown.”

It remains to be seen whether Democrats are bluffing or if they are willing to face blame for a government shutdown just weeks before the November midterm elections.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a democratic socialist who caucuses with Democrats, told reporters he is lobbying House Democrats against the proposal.

“We should not be lumping the production of more fossil fuel and carbon emissions into the same agreement,” he said. 

Another Democratic climate hawk, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, told The Washington Times she will remain undecided until the bill text is released. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Manchin reiterated that “the only way” energy permitting reform passes would be via a crucial piece of legislation like the stopgap spending measure.

“We’re all in the same mindset that permitting is extremely important. I’m so tickled that they’re all in the same mindset,” he said. “Should be a no-brainer.”

In addition to getting their own members on board, Democrats will need at least 10 Senate Republicans to keep the government open.

GOP senators released their own energy proposal Monday, beating Mr. Manchin to the punch amid frustration that Republicans have not been included at the table.

The legislation, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, would go several steps further than Mr. Manchin‘s plan but also bears many similarities with it.

Mr. Manchin suggested the GOP’s plan is further evidence of bipartisan support for overhauling how the country’s energy projects are approved, which often takes several years.

Ms. Capito’s proposal, backed by 38 GOP senators, would give states more power over energy production within their borders, including the ability to carry out oil and natural gas projects on federal lands in their states.

It also would weaken environmental rules by instituting Trump-era regulations meant to streamline project approvals.

A significant area of overlap with Mr. Manchin‘s plan is the inclusion of approving the stalled Mountain Valley Pipeline, a $6.6 billion natural gas project in West Virginia that’s nearly completed but has faced legal hurdles for years.

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

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