- The Washington Times
Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Two of the Senate’s biggest mavericks are working together on fashioning a bipartisan package to tackle climate change but also bolster U.S. energy independence.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska held informal talks on the topic Monday with House and Senate colleagues. 

While still very much in the early stage, Mr. Manchin is hopeful to replicate the bipartisan momentum that secured the passage of President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal last year.

“It’s urgent to find out if there … is any way that we can find a pathway in a bipartisan, bicameral way,” said Mr. Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee.

Part of the discussion centered on ways to boost oil and natural gas production to blunt high energy prices. Participants in the talks are eyeing a revamp of the permitting process for leasing federal land for oil and gas drilling.

Mr. Biden has urged Congress to impose penalties on energy companies holding leases but not actively drilling.

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“You’re going to have to have a leasing program that works and [makes] sure that leases are fair, and people are not sitting on leases,” Mr. Manchin said. “We need to look at all that … we haven’t done that.”

Any deal that comes to fruition is likely to include money for building new pipelines to transport oil and gas. Some involved in the discussion also want to see more federal support for liquified natural gas and the domestic mining of critical minerals, like nickel and cobalt, needed to produce batteries and electronics.

Mr. Manchin and Ms. Murkowski say the efforts will bolster America’s energy infrastructure while curtailing dependence on foreign countries. They hope that will incentivize enough GOP support to hit the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.

To garner sufficient Democratic support, Mr. Manchin and Ms. Murkowski are open to including some of the $550 billion in tax credits for green energy that was initially proposed in Mr. Biden’s derailed $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill.

Despite the balancing act, a deal on climate change measures faces extremely long odds in the narrowly divided Congress.

Democrats have balked at expanding domestic drilling for fear of exacerbating climate change.

“What’s acceptable to them has got to be something that can get 10 of us,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who is part of the talks. “And that’s going to be pretty tough.”

Mr. Manchin’s quest for a deal is the latest indication that he has little interest in restarting negotiations on the $1.75 trillion bill known as Build Back Better that was the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda.

Last year, Mr. Manchin single-handedly killed the legislation, which was slated to pass along party lines using budget reconciliation, over concerns it would worsen inflation.

“If I can find something bipartisan, we don’t need reconciliation,” said Mr. Manchin.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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