An about-face from Sen. Joe Manchin on Tuesday evening helped to set the Senate on an unexpected glide path to keeping the government funded, likely averting a Friday-evening shutdown.
The funding bill, which will keep the government running through Dec. 16, easily earned the 60 votes necessary to clear a procedural hurdle during a Tuesday vote. Seventy-two Senators supported moving forward with the bill.
It was not expected to be so easy.
For several weeks, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been carefully balancing his promise to Manchin to include Manchin’s permitting change legislation on a must-pass bill before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 — against a growing coalition of members on both sides of the aisle vowing to block any short-term funding bill that included it.
Schumer gave assurances to Manchin in order to secure the West Virginia Democrat’s essential support for the Democrats’ keystone Inflation Reduction Act in August.
As recently as Monday, Manchin was holding firm to that promise. He spent the weekend working the phones, publishing op-eds extolling the benefits his legislation would heap upon both renewable and non-renewable energy sources, and rallying support. He believed there was a path to 60 votes.
But then he relented.
In a statement just half an hour before the Senate was set to vote down a short-term funding bill that included permitting reform, Manchin announced that he had requested that Schumer remove his language from the bill.
“It is unfortunate that members of the United States Senate are allowing politics to put the energy security of our nation at risk. The last several months, we have seen firsthand the destruction that is possible as Vladimir Putin continues to weaponize energy. A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like Putin who wish to see America fail,” Manchin said in a statement. ‘For that reason and my firmly held belief that we should never come to the brink of a government shutdown over politics, I have asked Majority Leader Schumer to remove the permitting language from the Continuing Resolution we will vote on this evening.”
Schumer, in floor remarks moments later, said he would advance a short-term funding bill without the Manchin language.
“Senate Republicans have made clear they will block legislation to fund the government if it includes bipartisan permitting reform, because they’ve chosen to obstruct instead of work in a bipartisan way to achieve something they’ve long claimed they want to do,” Schumer said. “Because American families should not be subjected to a Republican-manufactured government shutdown, Senator Manchin has requested, and I have agreed, to move forward and pass the recently-filed Continuing Resolution legislation without the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022.”
Republicans were largely united in their intention to block a funding bill that included Manchin’s permitting reform language. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell actively whipped against it. Though much of the conference actually supports permitting reform, many saw this vote as the perfect opportunity to pay Manchin back for what they see as his betrayal when he pivoted from opposing the Democrats’ sweeping climate and health bill to cast the deciding “yes” vote.
In floor remarks before Manchin’s call to remove his permitting reform language from the bill, McConnell called for the inclusion of Manchin’s permitting reform proposal a “phony fig leaf”.
“The poison pill is a phony attempt to address an important topic of permitting reform,” McConnell said. “It is much too difficult to build things in America an unleash American energy. Liberal regulations are the problem.”
But Republicans weren’t the only ones working to block this bill. Had a vote on permitting reform been held, it likely would have seen several Democratic deflector.
Sen. Bernie Sanders vowed to vote against it stating concern about the adverse environmental impact that speeding up permitting projects for non-renewable energies could have. In a scathing letter to his colleagues Friday, Sanders urged Democrats to make an environmentally conscious choice.
“In my view, the time has come for Congress to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of our planet,” Sanders wrote to his colleagues.
Sanders also found Schumer and Manchin’s behind-the-scenes deal making on the IRA objectionable, branding the agreement that helped yield the Democrats’ climate and health bill last year, as a “disastrous side deal.”
With permitting changes now sidelined, the Senate will likely pass a bill to fund the government as soon as Wednesday. In addition to keeping the lights on in Washington, the bill also provides emergency funding for a variety of bipartisan priorities.
Aid to Ukraine in their fight against Russia remains a priority. There’s a combined $12.3 billion in aid to Ukraine that includes $3 billion for security assistance, $4.5 billion in economic support and $3.7 in drawdown authority for weapons.
It also provides $35 million “to respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine, assist Ukraine partners with security of nuclear and radiological materials, and prevent illicit smuggling of nuclear and radiological material.”
This funding comes in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin last week suggesting that tactical nuclear weapons could be used to change the course of the war in Ukraine, groundlessly accusing the West of threatening Russia’s territorial integrity.
But the bill also centers domestic aid.
Jackson, Mississippi will see a $20 million influx of cash to assist with the ongoing water crisis that has left citizens without clean drinking water for over a month. New Mexico, ravaged by the Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon fires last year, will get $2.5 billion to assist in rebuild efforts.
And, as conversations about the cost of energy swirl around this bill, there’s language to provide $1 billion in low-income heating assistance.
The legislation also averts a potential funding crisis at the Food and Drug Administration by including reauthorization for FDA user fees. But Democrats’ long sought after COVID-19 priorities have once again fallen by the wayside.
The administration wanted Congress to approve an additional $22 billion in funds to combat COVID-19 to fund vaccine research and additional testing. Republicans have blocked multiple efforts to secure these funds, arguing that there is still remaining funding that’s yet to be utilized, and questioning the necessity of additional spending. They once again prevailed in blocking COVID funds, this time by keeping supplemental funding off of this short term bill.
During her weekly press conference Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre vowed the administration will keep working to secure funds.
“We are not going to give up,” Jean-Pierre said. “We need to protect and build on the progress we have made. We will continue that process.”
Once the Senate finally passes the short term funding bill, it will need to pass the House before the Sept. 30 deadline. The House could begin considering it as soon as Thursday.
ABC News’ Trish Turner contributed to this report
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