Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer boasted Wednesday that he served up Democratic unity in advancing a stopgap spending bill and insisted he didn’t double-cross Sen. Joe Manchin III to do it.
“I kept my commitment to Sen. Manchin and look who blocked him — the Republicans,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, told reporters. “My commitment was Democrats. We had good Democratic unity. Sen. Manchin — and he will be the first to admit this — was supposed to get … and thought he could get … the requisite number of Republicans. He didn’t.”
The bid by Mr. Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, to streamline the permitting for energy projects actually did more to unify Democrats and Republicans against the legislation. The bipartisan pushback forced Mr. Manchin to fold his cards Tuesday and pull his legislation out of the must-pass spending bill needed to fund the government past Friday.
While Senate Republicans were able to score a payback against Mr. Manchin by refusing him the necessary GOP support to advance his energy proposal, Democrats were by no means unified. A handful of Democratic senators, including Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Tim Kaine of Virginia, were poised to vote against it.
Mr. Manchin is now pushing for a do-over in the future when he hopes to win over more colleagues from both sides of the aisle. He confirmed to The Washington Times that Mr. Schumer assured him the Senate will give it another go at a later date.
Advancing an overhaul of the approval process for energy projects was the price Mr. Schumer agreed to in securing Mr. Manchin’s vital vote to pass the party’s tax-and-climate-spending law.
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Far-left Democrats balked that it would fast-track energy projects and boost fossil fuels while undercutting their green initiatives. Mr. Kaine was opposed because it included approval of the West Virginia Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would have carried natural gas through parts of his state.
Mr. Manchin said he still believed Mr. Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, still want to get the bill passed this year.
“I don’t know what the vehicle is here. … I just know they want to get it done this Congress, and that’s good,” Mr. Manchin said. “We just have to find a sweet spot right in the middle that appeases the majority.”
Although both parties largely agree there is a desperate need to slash red tape to get new energy production online faster, the political pathway to get there is extremely narrow. Climate hawks concede it could bolster clean energy but are unwilling to roll back environmental protections while Republicans say it must include fossil fuels.
The one thing both sides do agree on is that they want a seat at the negotiating table — meaning no more backroom deals between Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin.
“We’ve got to let the dust settle, and then we’ve got to start negotiating,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat.