Sep 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Klain presses progressives on permitting reforms

The White House is privately pressuring House progressives to support Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform proposal, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Driving the news: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain called Pramila Jayapal (D-Wa.), the chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday to urge her to support Manchin’s proposal to make it easier to get regulatory approval for energy transmission and pipeline projects, people familiar with the matter said.

Why it matters: Progressives' opposition to the plan could not only sink a tentative deal between Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Manchin, but potentially trigger a government shutdown and cost Democrats crucial support from swing voters just weeks before midterm elections.

  • Some 80 House progressives, led by Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) have demanded that congressional leaders separate the permitting reform language from the government funding bill, which has to be passed by Sept. 30, or else the government will shut down.

State of play: Jayapal mentioned some of the White House’s concerns to fellow progressives on their weekly zoom call Thursday morning.

  • So far, many progressives aren’t budging and continue to stare down the Senate -- and now the White House -- daring them to send over a funding bill that they could potentially vote down.

What they are saying: “We don't like it. We didn't agree to it," Jayapal said, adding that she wants to pass a "clean" CR and consider other avenues for the permitting measure, like the National Defense Authorization Act.

  • "We understand the White House's consternation,” Grijalva told Axios. “Maybe they are upset about the fact that this has not been going as it was planned.”
  • “The White House has to realize that there was no inclusion on the part of rank and file members,” he said. “That the issue of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) is huge, and that many members are very protective about that.”
  • Senior White House officials, led by Louisa Terrell, the director of legislative affairs, are in regular contact with congressional leadership and lawmakers on all White House priorities, a White House official told Axios.
  • Klain has been in touch with Jayapal, as well as other lawmakers across the political spectrum, on the permitting issue, a person familiar with the matter told Axios. Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Steve Ricchetti, a counselor to the president, Terrell and other member of legislative affairs are also in contact with lawmakers.

House lawmakers are also keen to see the actual legislative text of Manchin’s proposal, instead of the various factsheets that are floating around town on it.

  • At an executive meeting of the CPC, “there was an acknowledgement that there needs to be some reform to the permitting process, but some concern about some public reporting about what it contain,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said.
  • “Let's see what the proposal is. Let's see what the Senate actually sends to us.”

The big picture: Schumer insists that he’ll include the permitting reform in the government funding bill, as part of a deal he cut with Manchin to secure his vote for the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act.

  • "I'm going to add it to the CR and it will pass," Schumer Tuesday.
  • But Senate Republicans have indicated that they will oppose anything other than a “clean” CR.
  • House progressives further complicated the the CR’s passage when they also demanded to separate the two issues.
  • Meanwhile, the White House remains committed to the Schumer-Manchin deal. “The president is committed to the deal,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.
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