WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to move forward with funding the government through mid-December ahead of a Friday deadline to avert a shutdown.
The 72-23 procedural vote puts the stopgap bill on a path to passage, which would keep the government running until Dec. 16 while congressional leaders try to hammer out an agreement that would last through next September.
The short-term funding measure includes money for Ukraine aid, Afghan resettlement, parolees and security enhancements for U.S. courts, among other provisions.
It’s unclear when the Senate will vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who in the past has single-handedly forced a government shutdown by prolonging a vote, said Tuesday that “I haven’t decided” about whether he will try to slow down the legislation.
After the Senate passes the measure, the House will have to vote to send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature before government funding expires at midnight Friday.
Tuesday’s test vote came after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., backed down on his top priority for the legislation: a deal to overhaul the permitting process for energy and infrastructure projects. Many Republicans — and a few Democrats — opposed his measure, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., promised him to win his decisive vote for the previously passed Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA.
Republicans, still angry about Manchin’s vote for the Democrats-only bill in August, credibly threatened to tank the government funding bill if his permitting measure was tacked on.
“A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who wish to see America fail. For that reason and my firmly held belief that we should never come to the brink of a government shutdown over politics, I have asked Majority Leader Schumer to remove the permitting language from the Continuing Resolution we will vote on this evening,” Manchin said in a statement.
Moments earlier, Manchin had privately huddled with Schumer in his office, two aides familiar with the matter said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., celebrated removal of the permitting provision, blasting it as a “big oil side deal” in a statement. “This is a victory for the survival of the planet and a major loss for the fossil fuel industry,” he said.
Yet Manchin’s efforts aren’t dead just yet.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a climate hawk, broke with some of his progressive colleagues in backing Manchin’s proposal.
“I think this was an important first step for the environmental community to have that family conversation about, about what it’s going to take to meet our clean energy goals,” he said, adding, “Making it easier to build things would be good for the planet.”
Amid political tension and weeks before a contentious midterm election, the path forward on permitting isn’t clear.
Schatz said “discussions continue” about how to revive the effort, calling the must-pass defense authorization bill the “most likely” vehicle. “We’re all going to have to regroup and see what’s possible,” he said. “It simply can’t take 15 years to do transmission.”
In a statement Tuesday night, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration would “continue to work with” Manchin to get his proposal signed into law.
“We support Senator Manchin’s decision not to press for a floor vote given the misguided Republican decision to put politics over progress by opposing his permitting reform plan,” she said. “The President supports Senator Manchin’s plan because it is necessary for our energy security, and to make more clean energy available to the American people. We will continue to work with him to find a vehicle to bring this bill to the floor and get it passed and to the President’s desk.”
During the Senate vote, Manchin reached out to Republicans to discuss restarting negotiations over a permitting package, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Cassidy said.
Manchin had a long conversation with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the floor hours after McConnell tanked his bill by whipping Republicans against an issue many of them support on its face. McConnell “was able to succeed in stopping something I thought was very much needed now,” Manchin said afterward. “But we have other avenues.”
Manchin said GOP leaders offered to sit down to discuss a path forward by the end of the year. “If it makes it better? Sure,” he said.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who also hails from an energy-producing state, slammed Manchin’s proposal as “worse in some respects than what we already have.” However, he left the door open to negotiating a bipartisan product in the future.
“The fact that Joe traded his vote for permitting reform doesn’t make permitting reform any less of a noble venture,” Cramer said. “So I’m not going to punish Joe for his vote for the IRA.”
Some conservatives, like Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., are eager to pass a short-term funding bill that would extend into January, when Republicans might have the majority after the midterm elections, putting them in a stronger negotiating position with Democrats.
“I have no problem shutting down the government if the issue is inflationary spending,” Marshall said.
But Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said his colleague doesn’t have the votes: “I think that’s a minority.”
Shortly after the Senate vote, House Republican leaders announced they would pressure members of their caucus to vote against the funding bill, putting GOP votes in doubt in the lower chamber.