Manchin ends pipeline push, clearing path for spending bill

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has, for now, abandoned efforts to expedite the approval process for energy projects, easing the Senate’s path to passage of an interim spending bill. that would allow the federal government to operate at the end of the fiscal year. at midnight Friday.

A procedural vote on Tuesday advancing the funding bill easily passed, 72 votes to 23, after Democrats announced the West Virginia senator’s proposal would be dropped from final legislation. It was clear that, with Manchin’s plan included, Democrats were well short of the 60 votes needed to proceed, as most Republicans opposed it.

As lawmakers again wait for the final moments of the fiscal year to pass legislation to allow the government to continue operating, they are confident they will. Neither party is interested in a shutdown before the critical Nov. 8 midterm elections that will determine which party is in charge of the House and Senate.

In addition to government funding, the spending measure provides approximately $12.3 billion in Ukraine-related assistance, including training, equipment, weapons and direct financial support to the Ukrainian government. The aid would be in addition to the roughly $53 billion that Congress has already approved through two previous bills.

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The measure excludes the White House’s call to spend $22 billion to respond to COVID-19 and $3.9 billion to fight an outbreak of the monkeypox virus. Republican lawmakers were overwhelmingly opposed to health funding. At least 10 Republican senators are expected to support the measure to overcome procedural hurdles and move forward in this chamber.

The most controversial piece of legislation was Manchin’s plan to streamline the permitting process for energy projects and make it easier to complete a pipeline project in his home state and Virginia.

In a statement, Manchin confirmed that he had asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to remove the authorization language and said he stood by his belief that “we should never come to the brink of ‘a government shutdown for politics’.

Manchin said he was ready to work with his colleagues to move forward with licensing legislation at another time.

“Senator Manchin, I, and others will continue our conversations about how best to ensure that responsible licensing reform is passed before the end of the year,” Schumer said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We support Senator Manchin’s decision not to push for a floor vote” and promised that the administration “will continue to work with him. to figure out a way to introduce this bill and get it passed and to the president’s office.

Both houses of Congress must approve the legislation by Friday, which is the end of the fiscal year, to prevent a partial government shutdown. It represents the last piece of unfinished business for lawmakers before the midterm elections in November. Lawmakers from both parties are eager to wrap up and spend time on the campaign trail, reducing the risk of a federal shutdown.

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, had secured a commitment from President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders to vote on all permits in exchange for his support for a landmark law aimed at curbing climate change.

While Republicans have voiced support for streamlining the permitting process for energy projects, some, including Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, have rejected the effort.

“What our fellow Democrats have produced is a false fig leaf that would set back the cause for real licensing reform,” McConnell said in the Senate on Tuesday.

McConnell said he would vote against the short-term spending bill if it included Manchin’s legislation and encouraged others to vote no as well, a powerful signal to GOP lawmakers.

Other Republicans have made it clear that they agree with McConnell’s position.

Top Democratic officials also said they were unhappy with the inclusion of Manchin’s proposal, but said keeping the government was a priority.

“I am disappointed that unrelated licensing reform has been attached to this bill. This is a controversial issue that should be debated on its own merits,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. must work to move this bill forward.

The wording of Manchin’s proposal tied to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would cross West Virginia and Virginia for more than 300 miles. The bill would have effectively approved the pipeline and directed legal challenges to another federal court.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was about to vote against accepting the funding package if it included pipeline language, another sign lawmakers lacked the 60 votes needed to proceed.

“We should pass a continuing resolution that is exempt from the unprecedented and dangerous pipeline deal,” Kaine said.

Environmental groups celebrated the hard-won victory.

“Good riddance to the dirty Manchin deal and the low-end politics it represented,” said Jean Su, director of energy justice at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The funding bill also contains disaster relief, including $2.5 billion to help New Mexico communities recover from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire, the world’s largest wildfire. state history; $2 billion for a block grant program that helps with the economic recovery of communities impacted by recent disasters and $20 million for previously authorized water and wastewater infrastructure improvements for Jackson, Mississippi.

The bill would also provide an additional $1 billion for a program that helps low-income households afford to heat their homes.

There was broad bipartisan support to build support for Ukraine. The bill includes $4.5 billion to help the Ukrainian government provide basic services to citizens and authorizes the president to withdraw $3.7 billion worth of equipment from U.S. stockpiles to support Ukraine’s armed forces. There is also money to replenish US stocks of equipment and ammunition sent to Ukraine and to provide Ukraine with intelligence support and training.

The White House released a statement in support of the palliative spending bill at the time of the vote, applauding the aid to Ukraine.

“The people of Ukraine have inspired the world, and the administration remains committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue to stand resolutely and show extraordinary courage in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion,” the White House said.

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

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