WASHINGTON — The path to averting a partial government shutdown by Friday night just became a little easier to see, after Senate Democrats said they'd drop a contentious environmental policy rider that had drawn critiques from the right and left.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., agreed Tuesday to remove his energy infrastructure permitting proposal from the short-term spending bill the chamber will take a procedural vote on later in the day. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on the floor he accepted Manchin's offer and will offer a new version without the permitting language.
That concession ends days of uncertainty and likely ensures Democrats will have the 60 votes needed to end debate on the motion to proceed to the legislative vehicle that's being used to carry the stopgap funding measure.
“Sen. Manchin, myself and others will continue to have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year," Schumer said Tuesday shortly before the planned cloture vote on a motion to proceed.
Manchin said in a statement that a "failed vote" on his proposal would "embolden" leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin and push the federal government to the brink of a partial government shutdown. Current appropriations are set to lapse at midnight Oct. 1.
The move likely paves the way for quicker passage of the continuing resolution in the Senate, with time running short before Friday's deadline. The House has "same-day" authority to take the measure up as soon as it reaches that chamber, but fewer procedural hoops for the Senate to jump through will give congressional leaders and federal agencies a little more breathing room.
The underlying bill would extend current government funding levels through Dec. 16 with certain exceptions, or "anomalies," for specific programs that need higher rates of funding. Congressional leaders also agreed to tack on $12.3 billion for assistance to Ukraine and $5 billion for assorted other purposes, like disaster relief and caring for unaccompanied migrant children at the border.
Victims of a devastating New Mexico wildfire would be eligible for $2.5 billion in compensation under the measure, and the State Department would receive as much as $3 billion from existing Pentagon funds to help resettle Afghan refugees.
Before Manchin's announcement, Republicans had steadily increased the drumbeat against inclusion of the permitting provisions, which they viewed as not sufficient to speed up priority projects and also an unjustified political payoff for the West Virginia Democrat.
Inclusion of the permitting language in the must-pass CR was Manchin's price for signing off on Democrats' prized domestic policy accomplishment, the climate, tax and health care reconciliation package that became law in August.