Manchin’s drilling permit reform on the ropes and taking hits from both sides

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s desire to bring more traditional energy exploration to his state and beyond has hit a snag, and not from the source one might expect.

As first reported by The Hill, while Manchin has secured the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he faces a wall of Republicans who want to deny Manchin any momentum heading into his reelection campaign in 2024.

Manchin — whose popularity suffered after he facilitated the passage of President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a widely panned bill that has become better known for new environmental restrictions and vast expansion of the IRS than for combating inflation — has reached out to Republican allies in an effort to push through drilling permit reform during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“It’s a heavy lift but we’re still exchanging ideas,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told The Hill.

Getting the measure through Congress will be a challenge. Manchin has the support of Schumer, but it’s unlikely that most Democrats will endorse anything that leads to more traditional energy exploration or fossil fuel production. That means, in a twist of fate, Manchin now needs Republicans to rally to his cause in order to pass his measure by a thin margin.

There is some reason for at least Moore Capito to support the bill. It would lead to the creation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would be a major boost to West Virginia’s economy and could swing voters back toward Manchin.

And, in the past, it’s been Manchin who stood between the American people and the larger spending, environmental, and social justice desires of the Biden administration.

However, this is politics and Republicans are desperate to regain the Senate in 2024. Manchin might be a moderate, but he is also a Democrat in perhaps the most vulnerable blue seat in the upper chamber.

This hasn’t stopped Manchin from attempting to get his reform measure passed by any means available. Last week, he attempted to have the measure added to the annual defense authorization bill, but that idea has been thus far rebuffed by Republicans.

“I think all of us agree that we need permitting reform,” Manchin told The Hill. “We need more pipelines, we need to be able to produce and get product to market.”

He added, “This is all about national security, energy independence. I’m hoping everyone realizes we need to do something.”

The critic might point out that Manchin could have helped himself by not backing the president’s inflation act, but the backing might yet play in Manchin’s favor. If he can get his measure through to Biden’s desk, it will be signed.

Another reality that could play in Manchin’s favor is the conservative commitment to American energy.

Republicans are playing a risky game of their own. The American people want relief from high energy costs and conservatives who are too keen on damaging Manchin’s campaign prospects could find themselves painted as part of the problem.