'This is abhorrent': Climate groups fume as Schumer plans to force vote on Manchin’s dirty deal

'This is abhorrent': Climate groups fume as Schumer plans to force vote on Manchin’s dirty deal
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) // CBS News
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that he intends to force a floor vote as soon as this week in a bid to ram through Sen. Joe Manchin's fossil fuel industry-friendly permitting bill, a ploy that climate groups and progressive lawmakers condemned and vowed to defeat.

Schumer's (D-N.Y.) planned maneuver, which he confirmed to reporters Tuesday, amounts to a last-ditch attempt to salvage legislation that has thus far failed to garner sufficient support to pass Congress. The permitting bill has also drawn sustained and furious protests from environmentalists, who warn the measure would expedite climate-wrecking fossil fuel projects—including Manchin's favored Mountain Valley Pipeline—and weaken bedrock environmental laws.

"This is abhorrent," the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition wrote on Twitter in response to Schumer's plan. "We've stopped this TWICE now because it sells our communities and planet out for fossil fuel profits. If you haven't already, please take a min to call your senator and ask them to vote against this: 888-997-5380. We cannot afford any more fossil fuel projects."

Schumer said Tuesday that Manchin's proposal—which climate advocates have labeled a "dirty deal" and a "fossil fuel wish list"—will receive a floor vote as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sprawling legislation that is set to authorize nearly $860 billion in military spending.

Schumer and Manchin have received large donations from a major utility giant and pipeline firms that would benefit from passage of the West Virginia Democrat's plan, which critics say uses the cover of permitting reform to advance regulatory changes long sought by the fossil fuel industry.

"We're gonna vote on that amendment," the Democratic leader told reporters Tuesday. "As you know, Republicans have blocked it in the House, even though permitting reform is something that they've always supported in the past. So I hope they'll help us."

What Schumer didn't mention is the significant opposition from Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who chairs an environmental justice and regulatory oversight subcommittee, made clear he would vote against the latest effort to revive Manchin's proposal.

"I cannot vote for a deal that cuts community non-profits out of the environmental reviews, further burdens frontline communities with toxic fossil projects, runs a fossil gas pipeline over every existing environmental law, and rigs the court system to boot," Merkley said Tuesday, referring to a provision in the bill that legal experts say would likely result in more favorable rulings for pipeline developers.

"We need improved permitting for renewable energy projects," Merkley added, "but this is not the way to do it."

It's unclear whether Manchin's bill stands a chance in the upcoming Senate floor vote, with key Republicans including Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) pledging to vote no.

In September, Manchin—who has enlisted the help of oil and gas CEOs—was forced to withdraw his permitting legislation after it became obvious it would crash and burn in a vote on the Senate floor.

Manchin, the top recipient of fossil fuel industry campaign donations in Congress, suffered another defeat earlier this month when Democratic leaders dropped their initial plans to attach his legislation to the NDAA.

"The zombie dirty deal to fast track fossil fuel projects—like the destructive Mountain Valley Pipeline—is raising its ugly head again," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, tweeted Tuesday in response to Schumer's comments. "100+ [environmental justice] orgs have spoken. The House has spoken. No one wants this deal."

"It's time to let it go for good," Grijalva added.

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