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Stopgap funding measure advances after permitting concession

Move likely paves the way for quicker passage of continuing resolution, needed before current funding lapses at midnight Saturday

Sen. Joe Manchin III, seen last week, said a "failed vote" on his proposal would "embolden" leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin and push the federal government to the brink of a partial government shutdown.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, seen last week, said a "failed vote" on his proposal would "embolden" leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin and push the federal government to the brink of a partial government shutdown. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The path to averting a partial government shutdown by Friday night just became a little easier to see after a key procedural vote in the Senate showed broad bipartisan support for a temporary spending bill.

The Senate voted 72-23 on Tuesday to end debate on the motion to proceed to the continuing resolution, after top Democrats said they’d drop a contentious environmental policy rider that had drawn critiques from the right and left.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., agreed Tuesday to remove his energy infrastructure permitting proposal from the short-term spending bill, eliminating what had been the chief obstacle to bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor he accepted Manchin’s offer and would offer a new version without the permitting language.

That concession ended days of uncertainty and ensured Democrats would cross the 60-vote threshold needed so they can call up for debate the legislative vehicle that’s being used to carry the stopgap funding measure.

“Sen. Manchin, myself and others will continue to have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year,” Schumer said Tuesday shortly before the cloture vote on the motion to proceed.

Manchin said in a statement that a “failed vote” on his proposal would “embolden” leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and push the federal government to the brink of a partial government shutdown. Current appropriations are set to lapse at midnight Saturday.

The move likely paves the way for quicker passage of the continuing resolution in the Senate, with time running short before Friday’s deadline. The House has “same-day” authority to take the measure up as soon as it reaches that chamber, but fewer procedural hoops for the Senate to jump through will give congressional leaders and federal agencies a little more breathing room.

Still, it wasn’t clear all Republicans would consent to a time agreement needed to truncate debate time. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., for instance, said he wasn’t sure he’d object to speeding up the process but that he had “no problem” shutting down the government over rampant spending that was fueling inflation.

The underlying bill would extend current government funding levels through Dec. 16 with certain exceptions, or “anomalies,” for specific programs that need higher rates of funding. Congressional leaders also agreed to tack on $12.3 billion for assistance to Ukraine and $5 billion for assorted other purposes, like disaster relief and caring for unaccompanied migrant children at the border.

Victims of a devastating New Mexico wildfire would be eligible for $2.5 billion in compensation under the measure, and the State Department would receive as much as $3 billion from existing Pentagon funds to help resettle Afghan refugees.

Before Manchin’s announcement, Republicans had steadily increased the drumbeat against inclusion of the permitting provisions, which they viewed as not sufficient to speed up priority projects and also an unjustified political payoff for the West Virginia Democrat.

Inclusion of the permitting language in the must-pass CR was Manchin’s price for signing off on Democrats’ prized domestic policy accomplishment, the climate, tax and health care reconciliation package that became law in August.

“If tepid Democrat support for this phony fig leaf is all that our colleague from West Virginia got in return for approving yet another tax and spending spree during an inflation crisis, it’s hard to imagine a worse bargain for a senator or for the country,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier on the floor, before Manchin’s announcement.

McConnell said the rest of the bill’s contents have bipartisan support.

The bill also would have seen Democratic defections in both chambers over the permitting language. The agreement likely removes obstacles to clearing the measure in the House later in the week, after more than 80 Democrats in that chamber expressed opposition to pairing the stopgap measure with Manchin’s proposal.

“Taking the dirty permitting rider out of must-pass government funding is the right decision and I’m grateful to my colleagues for making it,” House Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., said in a statement.

The measure also carries a host of extensions for expiring authorizations, including five years for the Food and Drug Administration’s core user fee programs and shorter-term renewals for others ranging from mandatory livestock price reporting rules to authority to issue new flood insurance policies.

The bill’s new Dec. 16 deadline would create pressure for a lame-duck omnibus spending deal as well as agreements on numerous other pieces of unfinished business, such as FDA provisions left out of the five-year authorization.

David Jordan contributed to this report.

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