WASHINGTON — The group of U.S. House Democrats calling on chamber leaders not to include environmental permit changes in an interim spending deal this month includes 76 members, including top committee leaders from the budget and spending and factions across the caucus ideological spectrum.
The 76 signatories to a letter sent late last week and updated on Monday represent a third of the House Democratic caucus, which currently numbers 219.
The House members’ objections center on what they say is a pro-fossil fuel deal that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. The deal secured Manchin’s support for a major Democratic health care, tax and climate bill.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucus with Democrats, said in a floor speech last week that he was also adamantly opposed to changes in licensing regulations.
Members of the Chamber, led by Chamber of Natural Resources President Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer asking Friday that a bill to update the federal approval process for energy projects not be included in the continuing resolution Congress must adopt to keep government open after the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have already endorsed Manchin’s clearance deal.
Still, several committee chairs, including Budget Chairman John Yarmuth of Kentucky, have signed the letter. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, who lead subcommittees of the powerful House Appropriations Committee that drafts spending bills, also endorsed it.
Most of the signatures came from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which Grijalva previously chaired.
But 19 are not members of this group. One signatory, Ed Case of Hawaii, co-chairs the centrist Blue Dog coalition.
Other signatories include:
- Colorado’s Joe Neguse and Jason Crow
- Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson from Florida
- Hank Johnson from Georgia
- Indiana’s Andre Carson
- Jamie Raskin, David Trone, Anthony Brown and John Sarbanes of Maryland
- Rashida Tlaib, Andy Levin and Debbie Dingell from Michigan
- Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips of Minnesota
- Emanuel Cleaver II and Cori Bush of Missouri
- Bonnie Watson Coleman from New Jersey
- Melanie Stansbury from New Mexico
- Alma Adams of North Carolina
- Shontel Brown of Ohio
- Count Blumenauer of Oregon
- Dwight Evans, Madeleine Dean and Mary Gay Scanlon from Pennsylvania
- Steve Cohen from Tennessee
- Donald McEachin, Bobby Scott, Abigail Spanberger and Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia
- Marc Pocan and Gwen Moore from Wisconsin
Manchin, a centrist Democrat aligned with his state’s fossil fuel industries, and Schumer, of New York, agreed to move permitting legislation as part of an agreement pass Democrats’ $750 billion climate, tax and health bill this summer.
A July press release de Manchin announcing the deal said Schumer, Pelosi and President Joe Biden had agreed to authorizing reform legislation.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that the Biden administration supports the permit deal, which she said was key to passing the spending bill that included the largest action taken by the United States to combat climate change.
“We support this deal and this vote,” she told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One. “And we will work with Congress to determine the best way forward.”
Representatives for Pelosi did not return a message seeking comment on Monday.
Federal authorization provides important environmental protections and opportunities for communities to oppose new projects, the letter from the House members said. Changes to those requirements would likely weaken community protections, to the benefit of fossil fuel industries, members said.
Proponents of updating the permitting process say the updates would help speed up the construction of renewable energy projects and transmission infrastructure.
It’s unclear how far the signatories to the letter will go to defeat the authorizing legislation, details of which have not been released.
The letter urges House leaders not to include the bill and notes that MPs will be forced to choose between opposing legislation they say will weaken environmental protections and shut down government.
But members are not threatening to vote against a spending bill that includes the permit measure.
“I don’t know how a CR vote will play out if it includes the authorizing runner, but the opposition is strong and only intensifying,” Grijalva said in a statement Monday. “I encourage leaders to listen to their caucus and keep us out of a stalemate that no one wants. Give us a clean RC and let these dirty authorization provisions withstand congressional scrutiny by them. themselves.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
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