Manchin Is About to See What Payback’s Are

Rachael Warriner/

Some Progressives in the House finally feel like they have some leverage over Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. They have spent years watching the moderate Democrat tank some of the most beloved priorities, and now, well there may be some payback.

Dozens of House Democrats are threatening Manchin’s proposal to streamline energy project permits. And they are even willing to break some of the commitments they made to him when the party passed their massive climate change, tax, and health care bill a few months ago.

The president has signed that bill into law and the most liberal members of the House believe they have the votes to force Manchin back to the negotiation table to change a deal already made that they believe is too fossil fuel-friendly.

Raúl Grijalva, the Natural Resources Committee Chair, is leading the way for the progressives to challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take out of this month’s must-pass stopgap funding bill from the Manchin-crafted permitting measure. But Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had already agreed to keep it together.

“This is a tale of two houses,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), said as he criticized Schumer and Manchin’s previous agreement to address permitting reform in exchange for his vote on the party-line bill. He called the previous negotiations a “sleazy backroom deal.”

This will certainly be the last big controversy with Democrats before the midterms after coming to party unity on issues like abortion, the economy, and same-sex marriage.

With Congress locked up by the 50-50 Senate, the House has become prominent with the lower chamber progressives having the most significant resistance to Manchin’s plan.

If all goes as previously planned, the Senate will pass a short-term funding bill that has to permit reform attached to it just before the September 30 deadline.

In a Monday interview, Manchin did not seem worried about the fate of his proposal: “I would think that common sense would have to kick in sooner or later.”

That sentiment is being echoed by other senior members of the Democratic Party in both chambers. Manchin has said that permitting reform will mean that we can have the energy security that America needs right now. He said, “And as we move towards the transition [to clean energy], you’re able to do that with the infrastructure it’s going to take. … I would like to think people are being practical and not being political.”

But liberals at the Capitol have promised opposition to his plan. They say that it is not retribution for two years of pain they believe Manchin has caused as he reshaped the $1 trillion-plus Build Back Better bill into the downsized Inflation Reduction Act. And it is not because he forced the House to swallow last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The House Democrats say that it is all about an environmentally hazardous permitting deal, and the way that it undercuts climate provisions.

Some of the progressives have been willing to admit that they don’t mind the leverage they have over the West Virginian senator.

“It’s about time,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). He joined almost 70 Democrats in urging the party leadership to keep Manchin’s bill separate from government funding.

“It’s a pretty important vote and we shouldn’t play games with it to make it impossible to defeat,” Yarmuth said. He then noted that he and other House Democrats never signed off on the previous negotiations. “That’s totally Schumer’s deal. I’m not bound by Schumer’s agreement.”

So Manchin is about to see just what “paybacks” are, and I don’t think he is going to like it.