Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is warning other members of his party not to back out of a compromise climate deal that helped Democrats pass the $700 billion Inflation Reduction Act.
Specifically, Manchin agreed to lend his support to the bill—crucial for the bill's eventual passage through the evenly divided Senate—in exchange for consideration at a later date of separate legislation that would grant some concessions to fossil fuels and would cut down on regulations of the industry.
Now, with the Inflation Reduction Act passed, some Democrats are getting cold feet about honoring that deal, which they say would undercut the effects of the approximately $400 billion in climate spending contained in the larger reconciliation bill.
At a recent event in his home state of West Virginia, Manchin blasted far-left members of his party for musing on undoing the bill.
"I’ve got the hard left right now saying, 'Hell no, we’re not going to do anything now that makes it look like we’re helping Manchin,'" Manchin said. "I said, 'You’re not helping me, you’re helping yourself if you want to get anything built in America.'"
The regulations that Manchin wants cut often can delay the construction of energy infrastructure projects for years, and he has argued that loosening these regulations would help to increase U.S. energy output and reduce skyrocketing energy prices for American consumers.
In addition, Manchin has asked for $6.6 billion to help restart the stalled West Virginia Mountain Valley pipeline.
Though some Democrats seem to be looking at the prospect of betraying Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat has turned his gaze across the aisle to force his party to uphold their side of the bargain.
Specifically, Manchin has demanded that the regulation cuts be included as part of a stopgap spending measure, which must pass by Sept. 30 to stave off a government shutdown. If he doesn't get his way on this, Manchin suggested, he is quite happy to team up with Republicans and force a government shutdown until Democrats yield.
Like almost all Senate legislation, at least 60 senators must support advancing a bill before it can go to the floor for a simple majority vote.
If Manchin refuses to back a stopgap spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will need to win the support of at least 11 Senate Republicans to stop the shutdown.
"This [loosened fossil fuel regulations] is something the Republican Party has wanted for the last five to seven years I’ve been with them," Manchin said. "It either keeps the country open, or we shut down the government. That’ll happen September 30, so let’s see how that politics plays out."
The real challenge for Manchin, however, is from the lower chamber, where far-left elements have a much stronger hold on the party than in the Senate.
Progressives in the House have argued that they are not obligated to follow a backroom unofficial agreement struck between Manchin and Schumer as they were not involved in the process. In addition, they have contended that what Manchin is demanding would lessen the effect of the climate policies contained in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a leading member of the progressive "Squad," opined in a recent interview with The American Prospect that "we sure as hell don’t owe Joe Manchin anything now."
House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) echoed Tlaib's sentiments in a Newsweek op-ed, writing that "Democrats don’t owe anybody anything in return for passing the bill."
On the other hand, there have been some indications from Republicans that despite their longtime support of cutting fossil fuel regulations the party will not support a stop-gap spending bill if any extraneous legislation is tied to the package—including the legislation requested by Manchin. Republicans have suggested that this is the price that Democrats must pay for their series of partisan packages that were passed during the 117th Congress without any GOP support or input.
In one comment, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that any such bill would be "part of a political payback scheme," and vowed not to support the move.
If Senate Republicans share Graham's attitude, the Senate could be moving toward a politically fraught three-way split between Schumer, Manchin, and the upper chamber minority party.