WASHINGTON — The group of U.S. Representative Democrats, which is asking house leaders not to include environmental permit changes in a makeshift deal this month, has 77 members, including senior heads of budget and spending committees and factions from across the ideological spectrum of the caucus.
The 77 signatories to a letter sent late last week and updated Monday make up a third of the House Democratic caucus, which currently stands at 219.
House members object to what they say is a pro-fossil fuel deal that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. The deal secured Manchin’s support for a major Democratic bill on health care, taxes and climate.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who sides with Democrats, said in a ground speech last week that he had also spoken out decisively against changes to the licensing regulations.
Members of the House of Representatives, led by Natural Resources House Speaker Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who on Friday asked that a bill updating the federal energy project permitting process, which will not be included in the rolling resolution, be passed by Congress to follow the administration to keep open until the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
President Joe Biden and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have already approved the Manchin Authorization Agreement.
Nonetheless, several committee chairs, including Kentucky budget chairman John Yarmuth, signed the letter. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, who chair subcommittees of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which writes spending accounts, also supported it.
Most of the signatures came from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Grijalva used to chair.
But 19 are not members of this group. One of the signatories, Ed Case of Hawaii, is co-chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition.
Other signatories are:
- Joe Neguse and Jason Crow from Colorado
- Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson from Florida
- Hank Johnson from Georgia
- Andre Carson of Indiana
- Jamie Raskin, David Trone, Anthony Brown and John Sarbanes from Maryland
- Rashida Tlaib, Andy Levin and Debbie Dingell from Michigan
- Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips from Minnesota
- Emanuel Cleaver II and Cori Bush of Missouri
- Bonnie Watson Coleman from New Jersey
- Melanie Stansbury from New Mexico
- Alma Adams from 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 allied with his state’s fossil fuel industry, and New York’s Schumer, I Agree to defer permitting legislation as part of a deal exist Democrats’ $750 billion Climate, Taxes and Health bill this summer.
A July press release of Manchin, who announced the deal, said Schumer, Pelosi and President Joe Biden approved the permit reform legislation.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that the Biden administration supports the approval deal, which she says is critical to passing the spending bill that marked the United States’ biggest move to fight 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.”
Pelosi officials did not return a message Monday asking for comment.
Federal permits provide important environmental protections and opportunities for communities to object to new projects. said the letter from members of the House of Representatives. Changes to these requirements would likely weaken community protections in favor of fossil fuel industries, members said.
Proponents of updating the permitting process say updates would help speed up the construction of renewable energy projects and transmission infrastructure.
It’s unclear how far the letter’s signatories will go to thwart the permit legislation, details of which have not been released.
The letter urges House leaders not to include the bill, noting that members will be forced to choose between rejecting legislation they say will weaken environmental protections and shut down the government.
But members are not threatening to vote against a spending bill that includes the approval measure.
“I don’t know how a CR vote will go if it allows the driver, but the opposition is loud and getting louder,” Grijalva said in a statement Monday. “I encourage the leadership to listen to their caucus and stay out of a standoff that no one wants. Give us a clean CR and let these dirty permitting provisions stand up to Congressional scrutiny.”
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.