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Is permitting the next immigration?

Illustration of the Capitol dome

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The implosion of the Senate's immigration and foreign aid bill is prompting fears that a bipartisan permitting deal could face the same fate.

Why it matters: It's long been clear that any permitting legislation would have to deal with election-year politics.

  • Now, though, senators in both parties say the immigration fallout is causing them to wonder about the odds of passing bipartisan permitting legislation this Congress.

What they're saying: Sen. Lisa Murkowski told Axios she'd "like to think" permitting could be "something we agree on" — just like immigration.

  • "But apparently, the things that we agree on are mere moments in times of agreement, until we change our mind," she said. "Can you detect the cynicism in my voice?"
  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said the immigration debacle "will sting for a while."
  • "But I think there have been disappointments on both sides, and we seem to always be able to at least get together on some critical things," she said. "I hope that's the case."

Zoom in: Any bipartisan permitting bill would inevitably be negotiated mostly in the Senate, just as we saw with immigration and foreign aid.

  • Joe Manchin and John Barrasso are trying to put together something on permitting both parties can live with.

Some lawmakers wonder about the odds of former President Donald Trump weighing in on permitting, just as he did on immigration.

  • That's despite Trump having chimed in on last year's debt deal, which included the first major change to NEPA in many years.
  • "I don't think it's something that will capture [Trump's] attention in this campaign. He's got so many other issues distracting him," Sen. John Hickenlooper said.

Yes, but: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse noted that immigration bills have repeatedly blown up in the Senate over the last 15 years.

  • "The Republican caucus is torn between shame at what they did and joy of being the mischief makers," he told Axios. "And the ones who feel a little bit of regret, I think, are going to look for ways to reestablish bipartisan pathways."
  • This week's legislative failure "doesn't help" with permitting, Senate EPW Chair Tom Carper told Axios. But Carper added, "I don't know that it poisons the well."

Our thought bubble: Even if Trump doesn't insert himself into the debate, we're skeptical about a permitting deal. The parties remain far apart on transmission and pipeline infrastructure.

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