Senate Republican leaders are urging their GOP colleagues to stay unified against a permitting reform bill sponsored by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) and to support instead a competing bill sponsored by his home-state colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
Senate GOP sources say Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) is doing most of the whipping but that Senate GOP leadership is united in trying to push colleagues to Capito’s bill.
“There’s a concerted effort in the Republican conference to stay united in our support for Capito’s legislation and to stay united in our opposition to Manchin,” a Republican aide said.
The one wrinkle in their plan is that Capito last week announced her support for Manchin’s bill, even though prominent GOP experts on permitting reform such as Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, say Manchin’s bill is too weak.
But Senate Republicans opposed to Manchin’s bill say that Capito’s support is primarily motivated by her home state’s interest in approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 304-mile natural gas pipeline that runs through West Virginia and Virginia. Manchin’s bill would greenlight its approval.
Manchin’s legislation is part of deal he reached with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in exchange for his vote on Democrats’ climate, tax and health care bill. The proposal would speed up the process for approving both green and fossil fuel energy projects.
Manchin will need at least 10 Republican votes and perhaps more than that because two members of the Senate Democratic conference, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), have signaled they will vote against his bill.
The Senate is scheduled to vote at 5:30 pm Tuesday on a House “shell” bill that will serve as the legislative vehicle for passing a short-term government funding bill combined with Manchin’s permitting reform bill.
Senate Republican sources say the Tuesday vote on the House shell bill will be the test vote for Manchin’s permitting reform. They expect it to fall short of the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.
If it fails, Schumer will have to schedule a vote on a different continuing resolution to keep the government operating past Sept. 30, the funding deadline.