Sen. Joe Manchin's deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for an oil and gas permitting bill in exchange for the West Virginia senator's support for the White House's $739 billion climate change spending and tax hike, signed into law last week by President Biden, is in jeopardy, as progressives say they are not bound by any agreement and vow to oppose the legislation.
Critics say that Manchin gave up leverage to get the permitting bill through the House by helping Democrats first pass the Inflation Reduction Act through a party-line process known as budget reconciliation.
"Manchin was so eager to side with President Biden that he shoved spending down America’s throat based on the falsehood that liberals would allow more domestic oil pipelines, Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., told Fox News Digital. "They won't."
Mooney has been pegged as a likely challenger to Manchin's re-election in 2024.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, a spokesperson for Manchin's office expressed confidence that the permitting bill would pass:
"Senator Manchin has always had West Virginia’s best interest in mind and the Inflation Reduction Act delivers for West Virginians and Americans by lowering prescription drug and healthcare costs, addressing high energy prices by increasing domestic energy production and permanently securing black lung benefits," they said. "Senator Manchin looks forward to following this momentum by passing comprehensive permitting reform next month."
Democrats began working on the reconciliation bill shortly after Biden took office. Initially named Build Back Better, the legislation was proposed as an ambitious overhaul of the nation's economy and climate infrastructure.
That iteration of the bill died within the 50-50 Senate amid Manchin's fears it would exacerbate inflation. The West Virginia Democrat reversed course this year after getting sufficient concessions from Schumer and whittling the bill down from its initial $3.5 trillion price tag.
As part of the deal, Manchin also received a commitment from Schumer to pass legislation by the end of September streamlining the permit approval process to drill for oil and gas.
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 in the deal, 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 earlier this month when news of the deal first broke. "Completing this pipeline will increase supply, strengthen American energy security and bring down gas prices."
Progressive House Democrats disagree, however. They say the permitting bill desired by Manchin threatens to undercut any climate benefit derived from the Inflation Reduction Act.
"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."
Tlaib and others from the 98-member Congressional Progressive Caucus are pledging to vote against the permitting bill if it comes up for a vote in the House. The opposition could be costly given that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can only lose four Democrats on any bill before having to rely on the GOP.
Progressives are also warning House Democratic leaders against trying to slip the permitting bill into a bigger legislative package. They say if the measure comes to the House floor it should be standalone.
Far-left lawmakers are not the only ones taking issue with the permitting bill. Some Senate Republicans say their votes are not guaranteed, especially after Manchin sided with fellow Democrats to advance Biden's tax and climate agenda.
"If you think you're going to get 60 votes to get the sweeteners that can't be done in reconciliation, you need to think long and hard about what you're doing," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Late last month, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) revealed in an analysis that the Inflation Reduction Act would increase taxes by billions of dollars, including on middle-class earners.
Since the permitting bill was left out of the larger reconciliation package it will need at least 60 votes to pass the Senate. The tenuous position Manchin finds himself in has GOP critics questioning his image as a skilled dealmaker.
"Joe Manchin sold out West Virginia for a signing pen from President Biden," said Mooney. "He single-handedly restarted the Biden administration’s inflation-causing spending binge."