Senate to Hold Test Vote on Bill to Avert Government Shutdown


WASHINGTON — The Senate is poised on Tuesday to take a crucial test vote on a stopgap spending package needed to keep the federal government running past Friday, a package whose fate is in doubt amid objections to a provision that would streamline the construction of energy infrastructure projects.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, tucked the energy measure into the must-pass bill to fulfill a promise Democratic leaders made privately to Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, in exchange for Mr. Manchin’s vote last month for the party’s major climate, tax and health care law. The deal has rankled lawmakers in both parties and has complicated the perennial autumn push on Capitol Hill to avert a government shutdown.

Without action by midnight on Friday, federal funding will lapse; the spending bill under consideration would extend it through Dec. 16.

At least two members of the Democratic caucus have said they plan to vote against the spending measure because of the energy proposal, making it unlikely that the legislation will be able to move forward in its current form. Should the package fail to secure enough support on Tuesday, leaders will likely be forced to strip out Mr. Manchin’s piece and pass the government funding bill on its own to avoid a shutdown at the end of the week when the next fiscal year begins.

Mr. Manchin’s plan is intended to streamline the permit approval process for major oil, gas, solar and wind infrastructure projects — including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas project that passes through his home state of West Virginia. Most of the other provisions in the package, including about $12.3 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine for its war against Russia and flexibility for the federal government to respond to natural disasters, appeared to generate little opposition.

The funding package, released just before midnight on Monday, would punt difficult negotiations over the dozen annual spending bills until after the November midterm elections. It notably sidesteps the Biden administration’s request for emergency funds to combat the coronavirus pandemic and monkeypox, according to a summary from the Senate Appropriations Committee, because of Republican opposition.

But lawmakers in both parties expressed dismay that Democratic leaders had included the energy measure. The spending legislation needs 60 votes to move forward in the evenly divided Senate, meaning Republican support will be needed.

“I am disappointed that unrelated permitting reform was attached to this bill,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “However, with four days left in the fiscal year, we cannot risk a government shutdown; we must work to advance this bill,” he added.

The sentiment was echoed in a separate statement by his House counterpart, Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who noted that “while the bill provides a bridge to the omnibus, it is not perfect.”

Several Republicans, whose support would be needed to clear the 60-vote threshold, have said they have little interest in helping to deliver on a promise that prompted Mr. Manchin to drop his opposition to the broader health, climate and tax plan and allow it to pass over their party’s unanimous opposition.

In a statement, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said there had been “significant progress” toward a short-term spending bill that “is as clean as possible.” But, he warned, “if the Democrats insist on including permitting reform, I will oppose it.”

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed opposition to the details of the permitting legislation, which Mr. Manchin released last week. Republicans have said the legislation does not go far enough to ensure projects are approved more quickly, while liberal Democrats are alarmed at provisions that would make it easier to build fossil fuel infrastructure, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

In an effort to speed up the permitting process, the legislation would instruct agencies to complete required environmental reviews within about two years for major projects and limit the window for court challenges once a project is authorized.

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Some Democrats, including climate hawks, have signaled they will support the permitting package because they say it will help speed up the construction of transmission lines and other infrastructure needed to combat climate change and help deliver on President Biden’s pledge to cut United States emissions roughly in half by 2030.

“To meet our climate goals, and as renewable energy projects continue to become more economically viable, we must enact reasonable permitting reform — which includes expedited review processes that also maintain fundamental environmental protections,” said Representative Sean Casten, Democrat of Illinois, in a statement. “Anything less is failing to do what is scientifically necessary to preserve our planet.”

But at least two members of the Senate Democratic caucus, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, have said they will vote against the stopgap spending bill because of the permitting reform legislation. In the House, dozens of liberal Democrats have called for a separate vote on the permitting measure.

Mr. Kaine, in a statement released Tuesday morning, railed against the provision.

“The pipeline runs through Virginia for 100 miles and takes property from landowners, but I was not consulted as a deal was struck to approve it and thus not given an opportunity to share my constituents’ deep concerns,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Manchin has begun a persuasion campaign centered on his Republican colleagues, including placing an opinion essay in The Wall Street Journal and appearing in a series of television interviews on Fox News and other cable shows. Republicans, however, have instead rallied around a plan from Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, which Democrats argue would undercut existing environmental laws.

“It would be basically a lost moment in history if we don’t do this,” Mr. Manchin declared in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Ukraine’s recent military success, including reclaiming territory from Russia this month, has rallied lawmakers, who have already approved roughly $54 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid this year, behind the prospect of pouring more money into the effort.

The new package would set aside $3 billion for training, equipment, weapons and intelligence support for Ukrainian forces, as well as $4.5 billion for the Economic Support Fund, which is intended to help the Ukrainian government continue to function. It also would allow Mr. Biden to authorize the transfer of up to $3.7 billion of American equipment and weapons to the country.

It also would ensure that Afghan refugees granted parole could continue to receive the same benefits, but does not include a pathway to permanent legal status.

The legislation also aims to address a few domestic needs, including $1 billion for a program that will help lower-income families with heating costs ahead of the winter. In addition to providing $20 million to help address the water crisis in Jackson, Miss., and $2 billion for a block grant program to help communities rebuild after natural disasters in 2021 and 2022, it would give the federal government more flexibility to spend existing funds to quickly address the toll of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, storms and flooding in Alaska, and other natural disasters.

The measure also includes the terms of a “user fee” agreement negotiated every five years between drug and device firms and the Food and Drug Administration. Top lawmakers suggested they would try to pass additional consumer-protection measures, potentially related to infant formula, dietary supplements and diagnostic tests, legislative priorities left out of the stopgap bill.

Catie Edmondson, Coral Davenport, Luke Broadwater and Christina Jewett contributed reporting.