A Government Shutdown on Friday Night?

IF IT’S LATE SEPTEMBER, a government shutdown threat must be lurking. Sure enough, there’s talk of a shutdown as the fiscal year ends at midnight on Friday.

ONE THING IS CERTAIN: Funding for the new fiscal year will not pass any time soon; a continuing resolution will be necessary, setting Dec. 16 as the deadline. Still another brief extension is likely then, as Congress continues its maddening pattern of jamming consideration of spending bills into a frenzied week before Christmas.

THIS WEEK’S DEBATE will be about what to attach to the continuing resolution. It’s likely that the measure will include at least $12 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine, money for the water crisis in Jackson, Miss., funding for resettling Afghan refugees, heating assistance for low-income families and a five-year reauthorization of the FDA’s user fee programs.

SO WHAT’S THE CONTROVERSY? There’s a juicy political tale of revenge, as Republicans are seeking to kill a “permitting” measure from moderate Democrat Joe Manchin that would make it easier to approve and build energy pipelines. This is generally favored by most Republicans, but they support a permitting bill from the other West Virginia Senator, Shelley Moore Caputo, a Republican. Why?

MANCHIN STUNNED REPUBLICANS by flipping on the massive so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which he essentially steered to passage in late summer — raising taxes and adding thousands of new IRS agents, among several provisions detested by the Republicans. And now they want revenge.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER Chuck Schumer promised Manchin there would be a vote on his permitting bill (theoretically this week), but the last thing Mitch McConnell and other Republicans want to do is give Manchin another victory.

IT’S CLEAR THAT MANCHIN’S PROPOSAL will fail in a procedural vote today; many liberal Democrats oppose it and some have blasted a provision that would make it easier to build fossil fuel infrastructure and guarantee completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas project that passes through West Virginia.

AS THE FISCAL YEAR COMES TO A CLOSE at the end of this week, Congress will have to decide whether it’s worth the embarrassment of shutting down the government just five weeks before the Congressional elections.

MANCHIN OFTEN GETS HIS WAY, but he’s burned lots of bridges — and he eventually will have to cave on permitting. Congress is likely to pass a continuing resolution by Friday afternoon, agreeing to address permitting later this year or in 2023. Could there be a brief shutdown? There’s maybe a 25% chance.

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