Sen. Joe Manchin is negotiating in Congress to pass an energy permit reform bill before the end of the year after Democrats reneged on their promise to approve the legislation in September.
Mr. Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said he was in talks with lawmakers to add reform language to the landmark National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which sets policy levels and Pentagon spending.
The measure would benefit Mr. Manchin politically by accelerating the completion of a pipeline that runs through his state, and the decision to push it through during the lame session is backed by President Biden.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the defense bill “should include Senator Manchin’s licensing bill.”
Mr Manchin is seeking a final road to passage after Democratic leaders failed to push through the legislation in September, despite promising him they would get it across the finish line as a way of reward for his crucial vote to pass Mr. Biden’s rising bill. taxes and expenditures for climate change efforts.
His efforts to embed the language in the defense bill comes as Republicans begin to push to overthrow him when he is re-elected in 2024.
Mr Manchin, 75, recently told donors he was running for a third term, but he is considered vulnerable in the dark red state, especially after helping Democrats pass a major bill on green energy and tax increases earlier this year.
Republican Representative Alex Mooney, 52, who represents Mountain State’s 2nd congressional district, announced last week that he would challenge Mr Manchin in 2024.
He accused Mr Manchin of “enabling Joe Biden and the leftist agenda”.
Mr. Manchin’s political prospects could improve with the passage of the Energy Permits Bill, but the path to Mr. Biden’s office this year could be rocky.
And with the House GOP expected to take the majority, that will become even more difficult to accomplish in the new year. Republicans will likely demand far more aggressive provisions to restart energy production in the United States than those included in the Manchin bill.
He also faces resistance from liberal House and Senate lawmakers who dislike the bill’s pro-fossil fuel provisions.
Mr Manchin’s spokesman, Sam Ryun, said the senator “continues to seek a way forward to enact comprehensive licensing reform”.
The bill would prioritize the completion of the Mountain Valley gas pipeline in West Virginia, which has been hampered by legal challenges from environmental groups.
Environmental groups are pressuring Congress to resist Mr. Manchin’s latest push to speed it up this year through energy permit reform.
Some Republicans are working with Mr. Manchin to try to push the legislation forward now, including Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
Other GOP members are unwilling to help Mr. Manchin after he provided the critical vote Democrats needed to pass the Cut Inflation Act, a bill that raised taxes to pay for green energy projects that the GOP unanimously opposed.
Mr Manchin voted for the bill after publicly announcing he would oppose it. Republicans said Mr. Manchin tricked them into helping Democrats pass separate legislation to boost US computer chip manufacturing.
Some Republicans say the Manchin legislation does not include enough reforms to adequately accelerate fossil fuel production, now stymied by regulations and lawsuits.
Both sides, however, are seeking to overhaul the permitting process, which has slowed green energy and fossil fuel projects.
Democrats want to fast track clean energy projects, which Biden said last month are hampered by a long and tedious federal approval process.
“So I’m asking Congress to pass a bill to expedite the approval of all kinds of power generation, from wind to solar to clean hydrogen,” Mr. Biden. “Because we need to get things done now, quickly – now.”