Bipartisan energy, climate talks led by Manchin are dead, Republicans say

Negotiations led by Sen. Joe Manchin to strike a bipartisan deal on energy and climate policies are officially over and with no legislation to show for it, according to several GOP senators involved in the discussions in recent weeks.

Talks between staff and lawmakers have ended, Republicans told The Washington Times, capping off roughly six weeks of discussions and in-person meetings that produced little progress toward an agreement that could muster enough support to clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.

Mr. Manchin, a centrist West Virginia Democrat, will instead push for energy and environmental provisions he supports in a federal budget process known as reconciliation that will play out over the coming months, according to Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican.

Democrats have the power to approve such a sweeping spending package without any buy-in from Republicans. Mr. Manchin has been involved in talks with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, about the process.

Mr. Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I think Sen. Manchin decided to take his policy views on climate change through the reconciliation process rather than try to find a negotiated agreement between Republicans and Democrats,” Mr. Romney said. “I’d rather do it on a collaborative basis.”

Mr. Romney said he considered the talks defunct.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican also involved in the negotiations, said earlier in the week that he was not aware of any ongoing talks between staffers and that they appeared to have ceased.

The conclusion of the discussions will come as little surprise to those on Capitol Hill.  

Senators from both sides of the aisle not involved in the negotiations, which first began in late April, viewed the small bipartisan group’s goal of striking a deal on such contentious issues as a fever dream from the very beginning.

The two parties can agree on little, as Republicans push for more fossil fuel production to meet existing American energy demand while Democrats want to combat climate change by transitioning to greener energy sources.

“There wasn’t much effort made to get a broader group discussion going,” said Sen. Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican who was never invited to take part, he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist who caucuses with Democrats, said in early May that he did not believe “there are very many Republicans — along with Manchin — who are serious about addressing the existential crisis that we face in terms of climate.”

Over the course of five meetings that stretched out over roughly six weeks, the bipartisan group had yet to make any significant progress toward putting pen to paper and drafting legislation. It lacked even a handshake agreement.

The topics of conversation throughout the meetings consisted of policies like clean energy tax credits; a tariff on emissions-intensive imports; streamlining permitting laws for oil and natural gas drilling; and promoting the mining of minerals critical for electric-vehicle batteries.

At the conclusion of their fifth — and apparently final — get-together in late May prior to a weeklong recess, patience for progress was wearing thin. Participants emerged skeptical that there was a deal to be had.

Mr. Manchin and others suggested at the time that they may soon have to throw in the towel over lack of headway but suggested the July 4 recess would be their unofficial deadline for topline agreements.

“The bottom line is we got some tight windows here we have to work in,” Mr. Manchin said at the time. “We’ve got to make some decisions here.”

Since then, the primary focus for most senators — including Mr. Manchin — has been bipartisan gun-control measures in the wake of an 18-year-old attacker killing 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

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