White House holds out hope for climate deal with Manchin later this summer

Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and President Biden. Photos: Kevin Dietsch; Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

The White House and some Senate Democrats are not giving up on Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.V.) yet — and are leaving the door open for pursuing climate legislation in a possible second reconciliation package, Axios has learned .

Why is this important: The Keeping Hope Alive approach means President Biden cannot antagonize Manchin by taking immediate executive action on issues that matter deeply to the moderate West Virginia senator, such as pipeline clearance.

The last: The White House decided not to declare a “national climate emergency” this week that would have opened up federal resources to fight global warming, AP first reported. However, Biden is expected to announce some executive actions aimed at addressing the issue.

State of play: Democratic leaders still plan to act quickly on legislation that lowers the cost of prescription drugs and provides grants for the Affordable Care Act — and get it to Biden in early August before Congress goes on vacation.

  • But if June’s 9.1% inflation rate cools enough to keep Manchin interested, they could make one last attempt at the weather arrangements he forced them to abandon this month.
  • “We’re open to it, regardless of the vehicle,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Axios. “There is a second possibility.”
  • “I’m highlighting the possibility because it’s quite a task to put in place – a second reconciliation bill passing parliamentary scrutiny from the Senate and [getting] on the floor,” he said.

Between the lines: No one knows what Manchin’s magic inflation figure is for him to consider spending some $300 billion on renewable energy incentives. The next publication of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will be on August 10.

Driving the news: Over the weekend, Democrats were depressed and demoralized that Manchin appeared to slam the door on climate provisions after spending the year winnowing the heart of Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better program.

  • Some outside climate advisers urged Biden to declare a climate emergency and accomplish administratively what he could not accomplish legislatively. If executive action was the only way, there was no need to keep Manchin happy or be sensitive to his pet priorities, some Democrats argued.
  • But then Democrats started processing what Manchin actually said on Hoppy Kercheval’s West Virginia radio show last week. They did not hear a final “no”.
  • “We have to take Sen. Manchin at his word. He says it’s not out of place,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told NBC News In Monday.

What they say : Manchin himself seemed willing to address climate policy this summer. “Let’s see what Congress does. Congress needs to act,” he told ABC’s Allison Pecorin on Tuesday when asked if he supported Biden declaring a national climate emergency.

  • “We’re going to keep fighting on climate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said during his weekly press conference. “We’re going to look at everything we can do. … There’s still a second reconciliation bill available to us.”

  • “We are much closer to a climate deal than people think. Let’s not throw in the towel just yet. Tackling climate change is more important than any August recreation,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) tweeted Tuesday.

Yes, but: Democrats recognize that trying to get another reconciliation bill through this Congress is a daunting task.

  • Would they agree to another deal with Manchin? Yes. But if they manage to fix prescription drug prices and ACA subsidies in a single reconciliation bill, that would potentially wrap up the fiscal year 2022 budget resolution.
  • That could mean having to pass a fiscal year 2023 budget resolution to craft a climate reconciliation bill, requiring two more upfront votes on amendments before midterms or during the lame duck session.

For memory : “Because Congress has failed to act against the national security and economic threat of climate change, the President will take action that builds on the historic steps he has taken since being sworn in,” the president told Axios White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates.

  • “He will continue to do so to reduce energy costs, keep the American people safe, and keep our economy strong.”

The bottom line: Democrats are eager to book a victory now on prescription drugs, while Manchin is still in the mood to negotiate — and get a bill to Biden’s office before the August recess. Everything else is considered gravy.

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