Kevin McCarthy's clown show has delivered their latest hostage ultimatum: give Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin his energy permit bill or else.
A growing bloc of House Republicans is urging Speaker Kevin McCarthy to consider demands beyond the budget — like energy permitting — in the party’s opening offer to Democrats on raising the debt limit.
While many GOP lawmakers say they’ve stayed intentionally mum on how their party leaders should proceed with talks, a growing number are now floating their own ideas to stem the looming fiscal crisis. One idea that’s been gaining traction recently is linking the debt limit debate to the GOP’s proposal to speed up energy permitting, according to interviews with roughly a half dozen lawmakers.
“I think permitting’s got to be part of the debt limit discussion,” said Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), who chairs the Republican Policy Committee and sits on McCarthy’s leadership team.
House Republicans see plenty of upside in attaching energy permitting to debt talks. In addition to giving them a guaranteed policy win, pushing through a permitting bill that already has keen interest from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is preparing for a potentially brutal 2024 reelection bid.
The Republican Study Committee, the House GOP’s biggest group, has gone even further in its advocacy of the move. It recently polled its 175 members about their priorities for the looming debt talks and found that members’ top priority for inclusion was energy permitting.
“It has tons of momentum,” Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), who leads that group, said in a brief interview. “That’s certainly pro-growth to keep our jobs here, and have less dependency on foreign governments and don’t send money elsewhere.”
Most of the conference is working hard to publicly give McCarthy space as the California Republican tries to force President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate to come to the table, with the deadline for raising the debt limit drawing ever closer. But privately, Republicans across the conference are clearly interested in landing one of their biggest energy agenda items in return for what many view as an inevitable political reality — that some of them will have to vote to raise the country’s spending limit later this year.
“This is the litmus test of whether we’re serious to get energy independent. I think we will,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), when asked about linking the GOP’s energy permitting bill to its debt offer.
It’s unclear whether Democrats would be willing to engage, Norman added, but “we’re gonna give it a shot.”
The idea has an added political bonus for GOP leadership: While plenty of fiscal fights divide House Republicans’ narrow majority, the idea of attaching speedier energy project approvals to the debt talks creates rare unity among what the speaker has dubbed the conference’s “five families,” from the conservative Freedom Caucus to the more moderate, business-oriented Main Street Caucus.
“That’s certainly something a large number of members would be supportive of,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), chair of the latter of those two groups, when asked about linking permitting with debt discussions.
Now, Manchin's not being specifically mentioned here, but we know that he's wanted energy permit "reform" as his price for signing on the Biden's climate bill. He had to eat that demand last year. But this year, things are different, and McCarthy's cunning enough to see a wedge issue he can use when he sees it.
We'll see what happens, but I guarantee you Republicans are talking to Manchin about this very subject.
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