Sen. Joe Manchin’s legislation to spur oil and gas drilling was left out of the must-pass national defense bill after conservative Senate Republicans and progressive House Democrats raised objections.
Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, said the move would have serious and long-term consequences for American energy independence.
“The American people will pay the steepest price for Washington once again failing to put common sense policy ahead of toxic tribal politics,” he said. “This is why the American people hate politics in Washington.”
Democratic leaders were hoping to include the legislation, which overhauls permitting regulations for oil and gas drilling, within the National Defense Authorization Act as a reward for Manchin’s support of President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. Those plans were nixed, however, after bipartisan opposition in both the House and Senate.
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Within the House, several progressive Democrats threatened to vote against the NDAA if it included Manchin’s permitting legislation.
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“This would gut bedrock environmental regulations and fast-track fossil fuel projects,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. “I refuse to allow our residents in frontline communities to continue to be sacrificed for the fossil fuel industry’s endless greed.”
Given the narrow margin by which Democrats control the House, the progressive opposition was likely to be costly.
“If even 10 House progressives vote against it, it likely can’t pass,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who opposed the inclusion of Manchin’s pet initiative.
The situation was similar within the 100-member Senate, except it was Republicans who were in opposition. GOP lawyers argued that Manchin’s permitting bill did not go far enough to spur oil and gas production to keep up with new environmental regulations.
A few also took umbrage with being asked to support the permitting bill and reward Manchin for helping deliver a big win for Democrats. Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., even described the deal as a “political payback scheme.”
“Sen. Manchin, if you think you’re going to get 60 votes to get the sweeteners,” said Graham, “you need to think long and hard about what you’re doing.”
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The GOP opposition proved key within the 50-50 Senate, where at least 10 Republicans will be needed to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold.