7 min read

Manchin proposal hangs in the balance as shutdown deadline looms

Will the most powerful senator get his way on permitting reform?
Manchin proposal hangs in the balance as shutdown deadline looms

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 42 days (six weeks!) away. Election Day 2024 is 770 days away.

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year: (possible) shutdown season. Congress will be working much of this week to avert a government shutdown — but a proposal by the ever-present Joe Manchin is standing in the way.

Let’s break down exactly what’s going on, and why it matters:

Manchin proposal hangs in the balance as shutdown deadline looms

With government funding set to expire at the end of the day Friday, Democrats released the text of their proposed “continuing resolution” just minutes before midnight last night.

A “CR,” as it’s known, is a stopgap measure. It kicks the can down the road, allowing Congress to keep the government running without passing the normal 12 appropriations bills. In this case, the CR released last night would extend government funding through December 16; lawmakers could then pass a full appropriations package in the lame-duck session.

If the CR isn’t approved this week, the government will go into a shutdown.

For the most part, the proposed CR keeps government funding at its current levels — with a few exceptions. Here’s what’s also included in the 237-page bill:

  • $12.3 billion in economic and military aid for Ukraine.
  • $2.5 billion to help New Mexico recover from a record-breaking wildfire earlier this year.
  • $2 billion to aid the “long-term housing, infrastructure, and economic recovery needs” of other communities impacted by recent natural disasters.
  • $1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), to help low-income families with their heating costs this winter.
  • $20 million for the deteriorating water system in Jackson, Mississippi, which broke down last month and caused a citywide crisis.
  • A five-year extension of the FDA’s user fees program, which allows the agency to collect fees from drug companies that seek reviews of their products. (The fees fund about half of the FDA’s budget; if the program lapses, thousands of employees would be furloughed. Currently set to expire on Friday, the program is required to be renewed every five years.)
  • A permitting reform proposal by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

(The Biden administration’s requested $22.4 billion in coronavirus aid and $4.5 billion in monkeypox aid didn’t make the cut.)

The Manchin provision is the only one without bipartisan buy-in, so let’s zoom in there.

As you might recall, this proposal was part of a deal Manchin struck with Democratic leaders back in July: if Manchin gave his critical vote to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (the expansive health care, climate change, and tax package), Democrats pledged to back his efforts to implement permitting reform.

Sen. Joe Manchin. (Third Way)

What’s in Manchin’s proposal, exactly? Manchin is aiming to speed up the laborious process of obtaining federal permits for U.S. energy projects. Specifically, his legislation would set a two-year target for environmental reviews of major energy projects and require the president to name 25 projects that will receive an expedited permitting process.

“This reform will reduce timelines for building critical infrastructure down to three years or less from the current five to 10 years (or more),” Manchin wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial. “This will bring the U.S. more in line with our allies in Canada and Australia.”

The fight over permitting reform has sparked some classic Washington power politics — and created unexpected alliances.

“I’ve been around for a long time in state and federal politics,” Manchin said last week. “I've never seen stranger bedfellows than Bernie Sanders and the extreme liberals siding with Republican leadership.”

Although permitting reform is generally backed by the GOP, McConnell has been whipping against Manchin’s bill, partly as punishment for the West Virginian blindsiding him with his support of the Democratic tax-and-spending package.

Sanders, meanwhile, opposes the provision because it will help speed up new fossil fuel projects, such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Manchin’s home state. (Clean energy projects would also benefit.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Gage Skidmore)

The Senate is set to hold a procedural vote on the CR, with Manchin’s permitting reform included, today at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Manchin says he is “optimistic,” but it’s unclear where he’ll get the 60 votes needed for the legislation to advance.

Capito, Manchin’s home-state colleague, is the only Republican on the record supporting the bill, while Sanders and other Democrats have pledged to oppose it. Even Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the former VP candidate and normally a reliable party-line vote, has indicated his plans to vote “nay.”

And even Democrats who say they’ll support the CR have made clear they’re doing it under duress: when he released the CR text late last night as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) himself said he was “disappointed” that permitting reform had been attached, although he encouraged to vote in favor of it.  

If the CR goes down today, congressional leaders will either have to quickly come to a deal on permitting reform, or drop the provision altogether in the name of keeping the government open.

They’ll only have until midnight on Friday to come up with a Plan B and get it passed, or else the government shuts down — an outcome no one wants six weeks before the midterms.

Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Phil Roeder)

What else you should know

➞ President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan will cost about $400 billion over the next 30 years, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated on Monday. That’s more than the White House had said, although Biden aides stressed that the CBO itself acknowledged that the projection was “uncertain.” Read more

➞ Russia granted citizenship on Mondaytoformer NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information on America’s extensive surveillance programs in 2013. Snowden has been living in exile in Moscow for years. Read more

➞ The first congressional office ever to unionize was announced on Monday. The staffers of Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) voted unanimously to form a union. However, the effects may be short-lived, as Levin is leaving Congress in January and Republicans are likely to roll back the ability for staffers to unionize if they win back the majority. Read more

➞ Republicans are making crime a centerpiece of their midterm messaging, running a slew of new ads tagging Democratic candidates across the country as soft on crime. With homicide rates spiking, some Democrats worry the attacks may resonate. Read more

➞ Hurricane Ian has made landfall in Cuba as a Category 3 storm. It is expected to intensify into a Category 4 before hitting Florida tomorrow. Read more

➞ NASA succeeded in slamming into an asteroid on Monday to knock it off course. The asteroid posed no imminent threat, but the first-of-its-kind mission was intended to test the agency’s ability to protect Earth from a space rock coming towards us. Read more

Today at a glance

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.

AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (10:30 am) and deliver remarks on protecting and strengthening Medicare and Social Security (1:15 pm).

  • Vice President Harris is in Japan. Early this morning, she led the U.S. delegation at the state funeral of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. She also toured the Zojoji Temple, a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, and met with staffers at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo and their families.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will be joined by FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell at her daily press briefing (12 pm).
  • First Lady Jill Biden will welcome the 2022 National Student Poets to the White House for a brief poetry reading (4 pm).
  • Second Gentleman Emhoff will meet with Latino members of the entertainment and media industry in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (9:45 am).

ON THE HILL: The Senate will convene (3 pm) and hold one vote: to advance H.R. 6833, the legislative vehicle for the continuing resolution (CR) extending government funding through December 16.

  • The Senate Rules Committee will meet (4 pm) to consider S. 4573, the bipartisan proposal to update the Electoral College certification process in order to prevent another January 6.
  • The House is out until tomorrow.

IN THE COURTS: Five members of the far-right Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, will go on trial in D.C. for charges related to the January 6 attack. BBC has called it the “biggest Capitol riot case yet”; they are the first defendants to face the rarely invoked charges of “seditious conspiracy” in a dozen years. The trial will begin today with jury selection.

  • The Supreme Court is out until tomorrow.

Before I go...

Let’s end on a lighter note. At least, I think this is a lighter note.

A growing number of researchers are buying into Bigfoot theories, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Yes, you read that right: “The number of academic individuals that are interested” in studying Bigfoot is “exploding,” Sasquatch researcher Shane Corson told the Journal.

These “sober-minded researchers” are studying “hair samples, footprints, and grunts and howls recorded in the woods,” as well as thousands of reported sightings.

The only problem? Many of them are trying to hide it from their employers. “They’re kind of in the Sasquatch closet,” Corson said.

Keep reading, via the Wall Street Journal.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe