Biden stepped out Thursday morning to offer his full support for a permitting reform effort Manchin has been pushing for months, calling on Congress to act. The Senate rejected including this measure in the National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday night.
“Today, far too many projects face delays — keeping us from generating critical, cost-saving energy needed by families and businesses across America,” Biden said in a statement. “That’s an impediment to our economic growth, for creating new jobs, and for lessening our reliance on foreign imports.”
Many liberal Democrats and a number of Republicans oppose Manchin’s proposal, and he has so far not been able to overcome these objections.
Biden framed Manchin’s bill, meant to speed up the environmental review and permitting of energy infrastructure and to put a fence around litigation against such projects, as a means to continue reducing inflation.
“I support Sen. Manchin’s permitting reform proposal as a way to cut Americans’ energy bills, promote U.S. energy security, and boost our ability to get energy projects built and connected to the grid,” he said. Biden has been urging Congress to pass permitting reform in recent weeks.
But Manchin keeps failing to get his bill across the finish line by attaching it to must-pass legislation, even with the support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and now Biden.
Manchin was dubbed the most powerful man in Washington in 2021 and ’22, as he held the decisive vote in a 50-50 Senate. Often, this meant the centrist decided exactly what would and wouldn’t make it through the final version of a bill.
While this often angered those on the far Left who wanted more progressive policy, Manchin eventually signed off on several bills that helped the Democratic cause.
Notably, Manchin helped craft the final version of the act that was initially known as Build Back Better. After whittling it down for more than a year, he finally gave approval to a version known as the Inflation Reduction Act. Biden and other Democrats were able to campaign on the bill’s passage, especially its climate change provisions.
Even in passing the bill, Manchin made his frustrations with Biden known. The deal was announced in the middle of a White House press briefing, implying that Biden wasn’t involved. Manchin later confirmed the White House had no rule, adding that “it could have absolutely gone sideways” if it did.
But the two will need each other going forward. Both are up for reelection in 2024, with Manchin trying to defy the odds as a Democrat in a deep-red state and Biden hoping to extend his run as the nation’s oldest president.
Biden’s support for permitting reform could be seen as payback for Manchin supporting the Inflation Reduction Act, argues Republican strategist Doug Heye.
“The Biden administration knows that Manchin will have a tough reelection,” Heye said. “His last one was close. So Manchin needs to win back home, and the White House is mindful of the politics of that state.”
Ironically, Heye argues, Manchin was responsible for many of the successes Democrats enjoyed over the last two years. Those bills wouldn’t have passed with a Republican sitting in his seat. Heye says Biden’s support could also be seen as an attempt to keep Manchin from switching parties.
Manchin won’t be quite as powerful in 2023 and ’24 since Democrats gained a Senate seat during the midterm elections. But with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) becoming an independent, his vote will remain crucial.
As such, keeping Manchin a Democrat and keeping his Senate seat in Democratic hands will be huge priorities for the party in 2024.
“Manchin is going to need to demonstrate to his West Virginia constituents the ability to deliver for his state,” said Democratic strategist and 720 Strategies partner Tom Cochran. “There’s a chance he switches parties, yes, but he retains more influence where he is as the 50th vote for the party controlling the Senate and the White House.”