Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, speaks to the press after President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. A energy proposal offered by the senator could kill a resolution meant to keep the government funded. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Democrats in the U.S. Senate late Monday released a short-term funding bill that would avert a federal government shutdown, but the prospects may be dimmed by the insertion of language related to the review of energy projects.
Lawmakers need to pass a stop-gap measure by midnight Friday in order to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. A massive, 237-page bill to fund the government until mid-December was offered up late Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee aims to do just that.
"Funding the federal government is the most basic responsibility of Congress," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the committee, said in a statement.
Apart from basic services, the continuing resolution includes some $11.5 billion to provide military assistance to Ukrainian forces battling the Russian military and another $4.5 billion for Ukrainian government operations.
At home, billions of dollars would go toward providing relief from heating and cooling bills, natural disasters and improving access to clean water.
In addition, it includes a proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to expand the federal government's authority to increase permitting for electric transmission lines, wind farms and other energy projects. That, according to CBS News, came as a result of a deal between Manchin and his fellow Democrats for his support for the broad-based climate, healthcare and tax measure that passed the Senate in a 50-50 vote in August, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker.
It was Manchin's offering that could thwart further progress for the continuing resolution meant to keep the government functioning.
Leahy himself expressed disappointment that the "unrelated permitting reform" measure was attached to the funding resolution.
"This is a controversial matter that should be debated on its own merits," he said. "However, with four days left in the fiscal year, we cannot risk a government shutdown; we must work to advance this bill."
There was no statement from Manchin himself, but Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offered measured praise for the senator's proposal on federal permitting.
Manchin has crafted "thoughtful legislation" that can improve the process, but it "isn't perfect," Bradley said.
"In fact, we have concerns with provisions related to transmission siting and encourage lawmakers to revise this section," he said.
For the Republicans, the measure is a non-starter. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the vice chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, said in a statement that lawmakers have made substantial progress on moving the continuing resolution forward.
"But if the Democrats insist on including permitting reform, I will oppose it," he said.