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Digesting the debt ceiling debate

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Apr 27, 2023
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Sheldon Whitehouse. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

The GOP debt ceiling fight has featured plenty of energy-related wrangling — but it may not mean much for permitting policy.

Why it matters: Repealing the IRA tax credits is a political exercise Democrats won’t accept, and striking a bipartisan permits deal in time to attach it to a debt bill would be a heavy lift.

Here’s what senators are saying:

  • “I think there's a lot of promise for a bipartisan permitting reform bill. I don't think they need to bring a hand grenade into the negotiations,” said Sheldon Whitehouse.
  • The Senate permits product “will be a part of what H.R. 1 is, but it won't be the full thing,” said Shelley Moore Capito.
  • “I don’t think that’s a particularly active conversation right now,” Martin Heinrich said when asked about a permits-debt ceiling combo deal.

The other side: Rep. Garret Graves, a top lieutenant for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, left the door open to something more bipartisan than H.R. 1, which is the GOP permits legislation attached to their debt ceiling proposal.

  • “We would love to have Democrats sit down and work with us,” he said of the debt ceiling bill. “They've chosen to not do that, and you can't negotiate in absentia.”

The bottom line: Fossil fuel and renewable energy industry players alike support the basic thrust of H.R. 1, and Republicans are publicly declaring that they won't accept a clean debt ceiling bill.

Of note: Industry witnesses in a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing yesterday offered a dose of skepticism about the GOP’s proposal to repeal IRA energy incentives in a debt ceiling deal.

  • “With regard to the debt limit, our view is, that's not an option. We can't allow default. … But no, we did support the IRA provisions, and many of our companies do as well,” Marty Durbin of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the panel.
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