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Nearly a third of House Democrats warned Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday against tying this month’s must-pass government funding bill to legislation spurring oil and gas drilling that is desired by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Seventy-one House Democrats penned a letter to Pelosi, D-Calif., warning that the bill’s inclusion will force them to seriously consider voting against the short-term government funding measure, known as a continuing resolution.
“In the face of the existential threats like climate change and MAGA extremism, House and Senate leadership has a greater responsibility than ever to avoid risking a government shutdown by jamming divisive policy riders into a must-pass continuing resolution,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who spearheaded the letter. “Permitting reform hurts already-overburdened communities, puts polluters on an even faster track, and divides the caucus.”
Signing on to the letter was a wide cross-section of the House Democratic Conference.
Signatories included not just progressive firebrands, like Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, but also leadership allies. The latter included Reps. Joe Neguse of Colorado and Debbie Dingell of Michigan, whom Pelosi has tasked with leading the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
Neither Manchin’s nor Pelosi’s offices returned requests for comment.
Earlier this year, Manchin struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass legislation streamlining the permit approval process to drill for oil and gas by the end of September. In exchange for the commitment, Manchin agreed to back the White House’s $739 billion climate change and tax hike package.
Schumer, D-N.Y., confirmed earlier this week that he would attach the permitting legislation to the government funding bill, which must pass by Sept. 30 or risk a shutdown.
“Our intention is to add it to the [continuing resolution], absolutely,” said Schumer.
House Democrats say the decision is fraught with risk, however.
“Such a move would force Members to choose between protecting [environmental justice] communities from further pollution or funding the government,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Progressive Democrats have long argued that Manchin’s side deal was with Schumer and not with them.
“We will be united in defeating the separate Manchin ‘permitting reforms’ that will accelerate climate change and pollute Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. “Manchin went back on his word to get [Build Back Better] done, and we owe him nothing now.”
The permitting bill, which has yet to be made public, would set timelines by which environmental agencies must conduct reviews for proposed projects. It would also require the federal government to hold more leasing auctions for the right to drill on federal land.
Manchin’s biggest prize, however, is provisions of the expected bill that would catalyze approval of a natural gas pipeline running for more than 300 miles through Virginia and West Virginia. The $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline was started in 2014 and is nearly 90% complete, but has stalled in recent months among environmental lawsuits.
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline is the only project in the entire country that can bring 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day onto the market in just six months,” Manchin said in August when news of the deal first broke.
The opposition by House Democrats to the oil and gas permitting bill has put the pipeline at risk. Manchin’s GOP critics say the senator gave up any leverage to get the permitting bill through when he agreed to vote on the $739 billion climate change and tax package first.
“Joe Manchin sold out West Virginia for a signing pen from President Biden,” said Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va. “He single-handedly restarted the Biden administration’s inflation-causing spending binge.”