The Senate is scheduled to take a key vote Tuesday to take up state aid that is in danger of failing over a deal that has been cut by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has come under sharp criticism from Republicans and liberals — backlash that could be enough to sink the vote and push Congress to the brink of a shutdown.
Lawmakers are still expected to pass a short-term funding extension by the end of the week, averting a shutdown, but they are likely to run right up against the Friday midnight deadline when the funding expires.
The timing of the fight continues a pattern by Capitol Hill leaders in recent years of negotiating until the last minute to fund the federal government, leaving virtually no room for error in a series of events where any senator could slow down the process beyond the deadline.
Neither party wants to be blamed for a shutdown — especially so close to the midterm elections in November, when control of Congress is at stake and as Democrats and Republicans both try to make their case to voters that they should be in the majority . Many lawmakers are also eager to wrap up work on Capitol Hill so they can return to their home states to campaign.
The Senate is headed for a vote Tuesday night on whether to begin debate on a measure to extend funding, but an attempt to attach an authorization reform bill from Manchin has put the vote in jeopardy.
Senators released the legislative text for the stop-gap funding bill overnight – a measure that would fund the government until December 16.
In addition to money to keep government agencies afloat, it gives about $12 billion to Ukraine as it continues to face Russian military aggression, and will require the Pentagon to report on how US dollars have been spent there. Aid to Ukraine is a bipartisan priority.
The continuing decision would also extend an expiring FDA user fee program for five years.
The authorization proposal would speed up the approval and environmental review process for energy projects — including a major pipeline that would cross through Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. Senate Democratic leaders are pushing to pass it along with government funding as a result of a deal cut to secure Manchin’s support for Democrats’ controversial Inflation Reduction Act — a key party priority — passed over the summer.
But Republicans warn they will vote against efforts to tie authorization reforms to the funding extension because they don’t want to reward Manchin for his support of the inflation-reduction law.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he will vote against the measure because of its inclusion in the Manchin plan.
“We have made significant progress toward a sustainable solution that is as clean as possible. But if Democrats insist on including allowing reforms, I will oppose it,” he said in a statement.
On Tuesday morning, Manchin continued to urge his colleagues to support his energy permit text in an interview with CNN, but acknowledged he may not have the votes to pass it with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging his colleagues against the measure .
“I’m not going to second-guess what Mitch would do and what his motives are,” he told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day.” “I think there will be a time when he looks back, if he really judges this well, that we’ve never had this opportunity to take a big step forward that we’re all in sync with – to allow that reforms must be made for the United States to meet the energy challenges.”
At the same time, some liberal members of the Senate Democratic caucus have expressed concern about environmental impacts. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is urging colleagues to oppose what he describes as a “big oil side deal.”
If Tuesday’s Senate vote fails to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to succeed, Senate Democrats may be forced to scrap the authorization bill and advance a funding extension without it.
Manchin released legislative text last week for his permit reform proposal, which he wants to see included as part of the continuing resolution — and now the West Virginia senator is working to try to get 60 votes to advance both the permit reform and the extension of government funding together.
A Manchin aide told CNN that the senator has been “working the phones all weekend” and has secured more Republican votes.
“He is still convinced that there is a path to 60. This moment will not come again and he continues to remind his colleagues of that,” the aide said.
This story has been updated with further developments.