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Capito and Manchin: Political Siblings Clash Over Energy Regulatory Reform

Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin are kind of like sister and brother.

They are bound by a lifetime of politics and policy making in West Virginia. Despite belonging to different political parties, they are typically cooperative and collegial.

However, occasionally there emerges a rift between these political siblings that spills out into the open, and this is one of those times.

Here’s why:

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)

Manchin agreed to the Democratic leadership Inflation Reduction Act only after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden said they would support a side deal crafted my Manchin’s staff.

That proposal streamlines energy permitting provisions and clears the way for completion of the often-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline. Manchin says the regulatory changes would unleash the country’s all-of-the-above energy capabilities and guarantee domestic energy security.

However, Congressional progressives who want to shut down fossil fuels oppose the side deal.  Manchin is reaching out to Republicans to support the plan as part of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

Manchin believes that Senator Capito, who is part of the leadership team, can whip the necessary votes. “I think she has the clout and the respect of the Republican caucus to hopefully bring 15 to 20 Republicans with her,” Manchin said.

However, Capito is reluctant to take on that responsibility. “Now the onus is on me to provide support for something I had no hand in and still don’t know what it is,” she said in a statement. “And so how can I help that effort?”

Additionally, Capito, who is the ranking member of the Senate  Committee on Environment and Public Works, has her own bill on regulatory reform.  She maintains the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency Act is a logical substitute for Manchin’s framework.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

“Since our calls for action and offers to see legislative text from the permitting ‘deal’ remain unheeded, Republicans are introducing this legislation today to deliver solutions to the roadblocks, delays and postponements of key infrastructure projects across the country,” she said.

This unusual public head-butting between Capito and Manchin demonstrates how hard it can be for Washington to do big things. However, political sibling rivalry aside, it is important to note that these two long-time colleagues want the same thing—reforms that will simplify the regulatory and permitting process for all energy projects.

They need to find a way to reach the same goal—preferably together– for the greater good of West Virginia and the country.

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