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Biden endorses Manchin's proposal to overhaul energy permitting process

Lawmakers agree on framework to avoid shutdown
Lawmakers agree on framework to avoid government shutdown 10:41

Washington — President Biden is throwing his support behind Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's proposal to overhaul the federal permitting process for energy projects ahead of an expected Senate vote on whether to include it in a massive defense spending bill.

Manchin was hesitant to back Mr. Biden's climate, health care and tax bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, earlier this year, but did so in exchange for a pledge from Senate leaders that they would hold a vote on his energy permitting overhaul. 

The Senate is set to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual military spending bill, before leaving for the Christmas holiday. Manchin's proposal includes speeding up environmental reviews and approving a natural gas pipeline in his home state of West Virginia, among other provisions.

"Earlier this year, the Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act to help bring down every day costs — including costs for energy," Mr. Biden said in a statement Thursday morning. "Already we are seeing inflation come down, and that is a step in the right direction. But the work is far from done. I support Senator Manchin's permitting reform proposal as a way to cut Americans' energy bills, promote U.S. energy security, and boost our ability to get energy projects built and connected to the grid.

"Today, far too many projects face delays — keeping us from generating critical, cost-saving energy needed by families and businesses across America. That's an impediment to our economic growth, for creating new jobs, and for lessening our reliance on foreign imports," the president continued. 

Mr. Biden's support for Manchin's proposal comes days after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent, a move that doesn't jeopardize Democratic control of the Senate but did unsettle some in the party. Asked if he would change his affiliation, Manchin said Monday he has "no intention" of switching now but "can't tell" what the future will bring. 

Manchin said in a statement last week that the permitting changes are "desperately" needed. 

"Failing to pass the bipartisan, comprehensive energy permitting reform that our country desperately needs is not an acceptable option," the West Virginia Democrat said. "As our energy security becomes more threatened every day, Americans are demanding Congress put politics aside and act on commonsense solutions to solve the issues facing us. The Senate must vote to amend the NDAA to ensure the comprehensive, bipartisan permitting reform our country desperately needs is included."

It remains unclear whether Manchin's proposal will garner the 60 votes needed to be added to the defense bill. Six Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, wrote to Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week to express their opposition to including Manchin's measure, which has drawn opposition from environmental groups.

"We request that legislation with such broad implications, impacting every state, go through the regular committee process in both chambers, where constituents and stakeholders may weigh in on the pros and cons, and where the legislation is subject to robust floor debate," the senators wrote. "This regular order ensures that the policies we enact are thoroughly vetted and considered and provides all members the ability to participate in the process."

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