More than 650 activist organizations want Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill to double-cross one of their own who was instrumental in passing the party’s massive climate and tax spending law: Sen. Joe Manchin III.
Hundreds of Democratic-aligned climate and other advocacy groups sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer Wednesday urging the Democrats from California and New York to ditch their promise to Mr. Manchin to pass legislation streamlining energy projects — including fossil fuels.
The conservative West Virginia Democrat’s price for his vital support of the spending law — dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act — was a guarantee that Congress would pass a bill to slash bureaucratic permitting regulations that often delay energy infrastructure projects for years.
The letter marked the latest escalation of tensions between the left-wing of the party and Mr. Manchin, who they feel they do not owe anything.
The nongovernmental organization Food & Water Watch was one of the letter’s signatories.
“This is a deal by and for the fossil fuel industry. … This is not new, this is Manchin trying to use the politics of the moment to deliver on these things that Big Oil has wanted for a long time,” Food & Water Watch National Organizing Manager Thomas Meyer said in an interview. “Democrats have been yanked around by Manchin and his corporate cronies for the past two years. We don’t owe him anything.”
The offices of Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin did not respond to requests for comment.
The lobbying against the deal is expected to intensify in the coming weeks when Congress returns from August recess. A coalition of environmental groups is planning a protest in Washington on Sept. 8 targeting “Manchin’s dirty deal.”
The permitting reform agreement includes fast-tracking both fossil fuel and clean energy projects, as well as finishing the stalled $6.6 billion West Virginia Mountain Valley pipeline for natural gas. No official text has yet been released.
Such legislation, activists argue, would contradict the historic climate spending Democrats passed just weeks ago. Roughly $370 billion was included and forecasts predict the provisions could cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade by 40% from 2005 levels.
Mr. Manchin has cautioned the left flank against double-crossing him for two reasons: Doing so would hinder new clean energy projects and potentially cause a government shutdown.
Democratic leaders want to tie the yet-to-be-finished bill to a stopgap funding measure that Congress must approve by the end of September to avoid a shutdown, a move they hope will stave off defectors.
In their letter, the activists described such an approach as “morally abhorrent.” They emphasized their fears that rolling back environmental regulations would “represent a profound betrayal” to marginalized communities that are impacted most by pollution and climate change.
“Holding the funding of the entire federal government hostage to satiate one senator with a heavy financial self-interest in fossil fuels is beyond irresponsible,” they stated. “Sacrificing the health and prosperity of communities in Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, Alaska, the Midwest, the Southwest, and other frontline communities around the country makes this side-deal profoundly disgraceful.”
Far-left Democrats like Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have said they “sure as hell don’t owe Joe Manchin anything now.” House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, wrote in a recent Newsweek op-ed that “Democrats don’t owe anybody anything in return for passing the bill.”
Mr. Manchin not only has to win over his own party, but he must convince at least 10 Senate Republicans to support his legislation. Despite Republicans’ longtime advocacy for energy permitting reform, GOP senators have suggested they have no interest in helping after Democrats passed their climate and tax spending law along party lines.
“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.’ … This is something the Republican Party has wanted for the last five to seven years I’ve been with them,” Mr. Manchin said at an event last week in his home state. “It either keeps the country open, or we shut down the government. That’ll happen Sept. 30, so let’s see how that politics plays out.”