Jun 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Manchin's bipartisan energy talks crumble, paving way for Democrat-only deal

Joe Manchin

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bipartisan Senate energy talks led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are essentially over, with Republican senators convinced that Manchin is close to a reconciliation deal with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The death of the bipartisan approach will allow Manchin and Schumer to focus on a potential deal that includes green energy tax credits and the tax increases to pay for them.

  • But any deal will also need 49 other Senate Democrats, including the support of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who hasn't been directly involved in the Manchin and Schumer negotiations.
  • Any Senate package will also need buy-in from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden.

What they're saying: "These talks had been a long shot to begin with,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told Axios. "Manchin informed us in the last meeting that reconciliation is probably the route he’s going down."

  • "We do not have any meeting scheduled that I know of, not at this point."
  • "Sen. Manchin continues to work with his bipartisan colleagues to find solutions that address our nation’s climate and energy security needs," a Manchin spokesperson said.

Driving the news: In an interview with Axios last week, Manchin breathed new life into his talks with Schumer to rescue the climate and prescription-drug element of Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

  • He called the talks "encouraging" but cautioned that a final deal was far from finalized.
  • "There could be nothing," Manchin told us in an interview. "There could be truly nothing. That's all I can tell you."

The big picture: Last Wednesday, in their most recent — and potentially final — bipartisan meeting, Manchin revealed just how far along he was with Schumer.

  • Once the senators processed what Manchin told them — and read his public comments — many of them concluded that the bipartisan talks were actually over.

Between the lines: The bipartisan talks were always viewed with skepticism by some Democrats who weren’t convinced Republicans would agree to the corporate tax increases that Manchin wanted for deficit reduction and to fund green energy tax credits.

  • But there was some hope the bipartisan talks would gather steam because many of Manchin's and Sinema's priorities — like permitting reform and changing mining regulations — could only be done via regular order and not in reconciliation.

The bottom line: A Democrat-only bill still has a long way to go, and it won't include some of Manchin's own priorities, like making it easier to approve pipelines. But it's the only viable path for the next few weeks.

  • "Reconciliation doesn’t allow us to do the policy changes that are really essential to meeting the demands of energy, not just in the United States, but also in Europe," Cramer told Axios.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to label Sen. Kevin Cramer as a Republican.

Go deeper