Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised on Wednesday to pass a side deal on permitting reform with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to the massive tax, climate and health care bill despite growing opposition from progressive House Democrats.
Schumer said he will put permitting reform legislation that would speed the development of fossil fuel and other energy projects in the stopgap spending measure Congress needs to pass to keep the federal government funded beyond Sept. 30.
“Our intention is to add it to the CR,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday, referring to the short-term continuing resolution to fund the government, which he said must get passed this month.
The decision will make it tougher for House progressives, who feel little obligation to help Manchin pass one of his top energy development priorities, to block it.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has circulated a letter calling for a stand-alone vote on permitting reform measures.
He told The Hill last week that 40 House lawmakers have already signed on to the letter.
Schumer told reporters that passing permitting reform was part of the deal he struck with Manchin in July to pass the tax, climate and health care bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which included hundreds of billions of dollars in federal investments to combat climate change and increase domestic energy production.
“Permitting reform is part of the IRA and we will get it done,” Schumer said Wednesday, referring to the Inflation Reduction Act deal he crafted with Manchin in late July.
But Schumer’s deal with Manchin on permitting reform is getting strong pushback from environmental groups, according to Democratic senators.
“The environmental justice community is very concerned these permitting rules will make it a lot easier to keep the fossil fuel projects that are polluting their communities. So they’re pretty torqued,” said one Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the political pushback facing the Schumer-Manchin deal.
Schumer told reporters after the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act last month that he wasn’t thrilled with some of the elements of permitting reform but had to agree to get Manchin’s vote for prescription drug reform, climate provisions and other Democratic priorities.
“In terms of the permitting reform, I didn’t like it but it was something that Sen. Manchin wanted,” Schumer told reporters last month. “And in fact it has some very good things for the environment. It’s going to make permitting easier for clean energy.”
Several Senate Democrats are holding back from expressing their support for a stopgap measure that includes permitting reform until they have a chance to review the final details of the deal.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he would need to review what’s actually in the permitting reform bill and how much it will affect carbon emissions across the country.
“’Are we helping to solve the climate problem?’ is the question,” Whitehouse said. “I don’t even know what the permitting reform is.”
Rachel Frazin contributed. Updated at 4:32 p.m.