Manchin appeared on Fox News Sunday to urge GOP lawmakers wary about working with him to back the legislation, which would fast-track energy projects nationwide, a policy priority for Republicans. Democrats have opposed his permitting efforts in years past as climate change became a legislative and political focus, though a large majority have come around given that it would expedite government contract approvals for infrastructure proposals. Manchin’s GOP colleagues have declined to get on board, however, for reasons relating to the bill for some and distrust of the senator for others over his backing of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Shannon, this is not about me,” he told host Shannon Bream when asked about distrust from Republicans over his legislative deal with Democrats over the summer. “My Republican friends, I’ve been working for 12 years with them, and I know their number one item that they’ve had, the number one priority they’ve had is permitting reform.”
“We can’t build anything in America. It takes five to ten years. The developed world takes one to three years,” he added, defending the legislation itself. “My Republican friends know exactly where we are. This is not about the previous legislation. This is something, a high priority that we have for our country. It’s a- it’s a time in history.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to include the bill, should Manchin deliver the 60 votes necessary to override the filibuster, in his short-term government funding package. He did so as part of an agreement the two lawmakers made in July: Manchin agreed to back a cut-down version of Democrats’ reconciliation bill that he had previously blocked in exchange for Schumer allowing the permitting package a vote.
The deal shocked Democrats and Republicans alike, as Manchin was personally responsible for killing President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda last year over concerns about rising inflation and the package’s high price tag. Democrats aimed to pass that bill through the budget reconciliation process, which allows certain measures relating to revenues, spending, and the debt to be approved with a 51-vote threshold. The Senate is currently split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the critical 51st vote in her capacity as president of the chamber. With Manchin’s opposition to the bill assured, and his negotiations with Schumer a secret, most lawmakers understandably believed the legislative effort to be dead.
Republicans were furious over the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage, expressing a specific sense of betrayal about Manchin. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had threatened to block a bipartisan semiconductor chip production bill aimed at competing with China if Democrats pursued a reconciliation bill. Republicans, including some co-sponsors of the chips deal, backed McConnell’s ultimatum, and Manchin (D-WV) promised he would not vote on a bill that included major tax and climate provisions. His reconciliation deal with Schumer was announced just hours after the chips bill’s passage.
Schumer aims to push the must-pass funding measure through this week, as early as Tuesday when the Senate reconvenes, leaving the West Virginia lawmaker low on time to find GOP support. It also leaves him with few sympathetic ears, as most Senate Republicans say they will vote against the measure. Many have lamented the politics of the situation rather than the bill, arguing that they don’t want to vote for a measure that was critical to passing Democrats’ surprise deal.
Manchin is pushing forward despite the opposition, arguing Sunday that the permitting reform is necessary to get infrastructure projects approved and underway sooner.
“This is a chance in a lifetime for us to have energy independence, Shannon,” he told Bream. “For us to have security in this nation, which we need, and making sure that we can take care of the American people with low energy prices, producing more oil, producing more gas. But we have to have permitting reform if you’re going to deliver it. You have no way of infrastructure to deliver it. So, everyone knows that. My Republican friends know that.”