September 26

By Kaia Hubbard

Lawmakers are working to stave off a government shutdown as a week’s-end deadline looms large. But standing in their way is yet another showdown with Sen. Joe Manchin.

The Senate is slated to hold a procedural motion on Tuesday to move forward with a continuing resolution that would, among other things, keep the government funded through mid-December. And with a 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster, it’s no easy task. Still, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have little interest in a government shutdown just six weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

Complicating matters is a proposal from Manchin to tack on energy permitting reforms to the continuing resolution, after the senator from West Virginia struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York to include the legislation in an effort to fund the government as part of their agreement when Manchin was the major obstacle to advancing the reconciliation package that passed last month. But pushback against the proposal has been fierce – and from multiple directions.

Progressives, chief among them Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have lambasted the legislation, which would make it easier for West Virginia’s Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline project to move forward, as environmentally hazardous and warned that it would disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income areas. Meanwhile, Republicans, despite pushing for permitting reform for years, have argued that Manchin should not be rewarded for his support for the Inflation Reduction Act, which came as a surprise to many when the key centrist switched course in July, agreeing to climate provisions that had once seemed out of the question.

Manchin sought to address his colleagues’ concerns over the weekend in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, arguing that the “balanced legislation” should be “a unifying moment for both parties” and is a key to keeping the country’s “energy future secure for generations to come.”

“Contrary to the radical agenda of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his allies, who seem oblivious to the reality of the global and domestic energy challenges we face, the common-sense permitting reforms contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 will help cut costs and accelerate the building of the critical energy infrastructure we need,” Manchin wrote, claiming that only blindness due to “extreme politics” could explain why Republican lawmakers would “even consider” supporting the same position on energy as Sanders.

Nevertheless, Schumer told reporters last week that Manchin’s proposal would be included in the continuing resolution, adding that he’s “working hard” to have it pass.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also considering attaching other provisions to the continuing resolution, including the reauthorization of Food and Drug Administration user fees, winter heating aid and funding for Afghan resettlement. The White House urged Congress to approve more than $11 billion in aid for Ukraine, along with domestic disaster relief funding, monkeypox funding and more than $22 billion for fighting COVID-19. While support for Ukraine aid and disaster relief funding appears likely, recent comments from President Joe Biden suggesting that the pandemic has ended have appeared to make the chances of already unlikely Republican support for the pandemic funding abysmal.

Even if the continuing resolution can clear the upper chamber, a number of House Republicans have already threatened to withhold support for the bill unless it extends funding through early January, rather than the intended mid-December timeline.

“President Biden is asking for a government funding bill that simply kicks the can to an unaccountable lame-duck Congress that does nothing to actually address the nation’s problems – especially the crisis at our southern border,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a statement last week, urging House Republicans to vote no if the continuing resolution does not address border security.

The race to fund the government comes as congressional approval has been trending higher since August, when Democrats secured a slew of legislative victories, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. Even so, the vast majority of Americans still disapprove of the job Congress is doing – which may not bode well for Democrats heading into the midterm elections.

Meanwhile, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol set its ninth public hearing for midday on Wednesday, where it’s expected to “tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, as the committee looks to wrap up its investigation and draft a report of its findings by year’s end.