And now we know why Manchin cut a deal on energy bill

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Okay, the title isn’t entirely on the mark because there is virtually nothing that happens in Washington these days that can be distilled down to a single event, moment, or person. But this is at least a piece of the puzzle when it comes to the deal that Joe Manchin struck with Chuck Schumer to try to put a bill covering climate issues and energy policy over the finish line. Of course, as Ed pointed out earlier, the deal may turn out to be Manchin’s swan song in the Senate, assuming he even wanted to bother trying for another term. So was it an effort to salvage the midterms for his party? Unlikely. There are probably more Democrats looking for his scalp than Republicans. But the deal does contain one thing that Manchin has desired for a very long time. It would mandate the completion of a natural gas pipeline through his home state of West Virginia. (Politico)

Before Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) lent his crucial vote to his party’s climate, tax and healthcare package, he got a commitment from Democratic leaders to pass energy permitting legislation. And Manchin on Monday released details of that side agreement that make clear he’s secured the construction of a major home-state natural gas pipeline in the process.

Notably, the document says the legislation will “require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” Manchin, also the chair of the Energy Committee, has called for the completion of the natural gas pipeline, which would send natural gas through his home state of West Virginia to the East Coast, for years.

Manchin has been trying to get the Mountain Valley Pipeline finished for well over a decade. His version of the proposed bill would give that to him and he could bring home all of the jobs and opportunities (such as LNG exports) that would come with it to his constituents. But this still isn’t close to being a done deal.

First, this will be seen as a poison pill by the progressives in his party. They’re trying to “end” fossil fuels, as Joe Biden promised to do on the campaign trail, only to realize this year that it was a horrible mistake. It wouldn’t take all that many lefty Democrats to walk away from this for it to fall to pieces. And there are already some rumblings along those lines coming from the Squad and their friends. We shall see.

But even if Schumer and Pelosi can manage to herd enough of their cats to make this happen, they will still need ten Republicans in the Senate. There’s a lot of liberal wishlist material in the bill from what we’ve seen thus far. How many Republicans are going to jump on board just because there’s one new pipeline for West Virginia and a few relaxed regulations in our energy policy? (The current version Manchin presented, or at least part of it, would shorten approval times and create mandatory review windows for energy projects.)

And even if some number of Republicans do like the energy portion of the bill, why would the GOP show any interest in handing the Democrats something that might be described as a “win” when they are this close to the finish line for the midterms? Even with a majority in both chambers, the GOP has managed to basically shut down Joe Biden’s entire agenda aside from the COVID relief spending and support for Ukraine. That’s another reason the Dem enthusiasm has been in the tank. It’s bad enough that they’re getting a shot in the arm over the Supreme Court decisions. Do you really want to hand them a climate change gift as well? It doesn’t sound all that plausible.

There’s an old saying that refers to “many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” Democrats are trying to celebrate this deal as much as possible at the moment. But Joe Manchin can’t deliver GOP votes in the Senate unless he has something seriously substantial to hand them. And I’m not seeing it yet.