A Democratic plan to pass energy permitting reform along with a government funding bill is hitting hurdles in the Senate as Republicans coalesce on a standalone proposal and progressives fret that the “devil’s in the details.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made the deal with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in exchange for Manchin’s vote on Democrats’ social spending and taxation bill. However, some Republicans, feeling betrayed by Manchin’s vote for the tax and spending bill, say they will vote against any continuing resolution with the permitting reform in it, even if they favor the policy.
Other Republicans are suspicious of the substance of the yet-to-be-announced permitting reform agreement and are backing a separate proposal from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Additionally, some progressives are threatening to vote against the funding bill over environmental concerns.
All of these factors could complicate Democrats’ path to 60 votes on the funding bill.
“Absolutely,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Monday when asked if Republicans backing Capito’s plan puts at risk the possibility the Senate could accomplish anything on permitting reform. “I think that there are political games played all the time around here. I think it would be unfortunate. There’s an opportunity to get a win for the American people.”
“This ‘rally around Capito’ strategy all but ensures permitting reform is dead for years,” a Democratic aide said. “This is the only window in the foreseeable future (years) to get it done and there is no path forward on her bill.”
Capito, meanwhile, said she put forward her permitting reform proposal because Republican “calls for action and offers to see legislative text from the permitting ‘deal’ remain unheeded.”
A Republican aide, meanwhile, said Democrats are “looking for someone to blame,” amid opposition from progressive Democrats to putting permitting reform in the government funding bill.
“The reality is if it doesn’t get done, Democrats will have lied to the American people and will have no one to blame but themselves,” the GOP aide said.
The progressive opposition to the permitting reform deal is strongest in the House, where dozens of progressives are warning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., against including the permitting reform language. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is leading a similar charge in the Senate, and other progressive senators may join him.
“This is one where literally the devil’s in the details,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Monday. “So I want to see all the details. We’re still in the middle of negotiations. I think there’s an overall approach that everyone’s talking about, but there are still some pieces to be landed on.”
Even Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of Manchin’s regular moderate allies in the Senate, appears suspicious of his deal with Schumer.
“I think putting it on a CR is problematic,” Collins said. “It’s a major policy.”
Some Republicans said they would be open to advancing permitting reform on a continuing resolution, but they emphasized the details would have to be right.
“We would support substantive, meaningful permitting reform. Not a meager solution intended to help Sen. Manchin save face. We would support something substantive much like what Sen. Capito proposed,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told Fox News Digital.
“It depends what’s in it,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said. “I’m going to be looking at it objectively.”
Congress faces a deadline of the end of the month to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government or else it shut down. With the midterms approaching fast, it is likely that lawmakers will figure a way to at least temporarily defuse the political brinksmanship, so they can go home and campaign.
However, that solution, so far, is not clear.
“You’ll have to find out,” Sanders said when asked if any Senate Democrats share his position on permitting reform and the continuing resolution. “I don’t know.”
Fox News’ Haris Alic contributed to this report.