Congress, U.S. President

Joe Manchin talks with WV reporters about permitting reform, debt ceiling negotiations

MORGANTOWN – Permitting reform will happen this year and the government won’t go into default on its debts, Sen. Joe Manchin told West Virginia reporters Thursday afternoon.

“Permitting is going to happen, we’re going to make sure that happens, and if it doesn’t happen shame on all of us,” he said. The Republicans have a bill and he’s reintroduced his from last year, so there are good starting points. “There is no reason on this earth other than the horrible political atmosphere that can sometimes entwine us to get nothing accomplished.”

And on the debt ceiling debate, he said, “Default’s not in the cards for anybody.”

He elaborated on both during his opening comments and the Q&A.

On permitting reform, he said he does all he can to work with both sides. “Forget about the politics, let’s get it done. … This has to be done.”

Separately on Thursday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. John Barrasso, ranking member of Manchin’s Energy Committee, jointly announced their permitting reform bills.

Capito’s bill is the Revitalizing the Economy by Simplifying Timelines and Assuring Regulatory Transparency (RESTART) Act, and covers key reforms in EPW’s jurisdiction, including provisions to streamline the agency review process with enforceable timelines, implement time limits to prevent endless legal challenges, and modernize current laws while maintaining environmental protections.

Barrasso’s bill is the Spur Permitting of Underdeveloped Resources (SPUR) Act, and covers key reforms in that committee’s jurisdiction, including provisions to increase domestic energy and mineral development, ensure federal lands remain open to productive uses and streamline permitting of energy infrastructure.

Debt ceiling

Manchin said he’s concerned about the amount of debt we’re passing on, and we need to keep it from growing. For 21 years in a row the government has spent more than it took in. COVID led to unprecedented spending to meet the public health and economic challenges but it’s time to return to normal.

It makes sense, he said, to look at where we were before COVID and factor in some slight natural increases in spending. That means not spending everything we’d like but everything we need to take care of those most in need.

The House Limit, Save, Grow Act that would increase the debt limit by $1.5 trillion through March 2024, free up $4.5 trillion in savings by reversing discretionary spending for non-defense programs to fiscal year 2022 levels, and limit program growth to 1% annually.

The bill targets Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, rescinds funding to add 80,000 IRS agents, reclaims unspent COVID-19 funding, and enacts work requirements (80 hours per month) for federal aid programs for childless adults up to age 56, including Medicaid and SNAP, but does not include any changes to Social Security and Medicare.

Manchin said he talked with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and told McCarthy the bill repeals some measures that he would prefer not repealing but ensuring that they are legally and correctly enforced.

Manchin told the reporters, “I’m not supporting cuts, I’m supporting controlling spending.” He cited numbers that put the U.S., on the current trajectory, at $170 trillion to $200 trillion in debt by 2050 , with $5 trillion in interest payments – which is unmanageable and unsustainable.

“If we know we have that staring at us, don’t we have a responsibility to try to curtail it and get our financial house in order. … Let’s see if the adults in the room can come to an agreement on how we move forward.”

The Dominion Post asked him about two provisions in the bill – curtailing Biden’s student loan forgiveness program and the addition of 80,000 IRS agents.

On the loan forgiveness, he said he would prefer providing opportunities for people with financial challenges to work off their debt with several years of public service. Simply forgiving debt is a slap to those who’ve paid theirs off, and to those who never went to college but would be paying others’ debts through their taxes. “Just forgiving it outright, I think, is wrong.”

On the agents, he said the IRS will be about 50,000 employees short through vacancies and retirements. He’s more interested in filling that gap so it can perform its services, and upgrading IRS technology to bring it up to date and make it easier for people to file.

The projected price for that, he said, is $50 billion compared to $80 billion for adding the new agents.

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