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Mired in Manchinema: Consequences of Compromise

ACCORDING TO LIZ - Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were not able to tank the Inflation Reduction Act which the Senate passed last weekend, but they sure haven’t helped reduce inflation.

Manchin who pulls down more oil and gas contribution dollars than anyone else in Congress, has included language in the Act to require the Dems to support a bill to be introduced later this year that would reform the permitting process for energy projects and clear the way for final approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline – both massive victories for the fossil fuel industry. 

A fossil fuel industry intent on maximizing profits on the backs of ordinary Americans. 

Clearing the way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline has been a key priority for Manchin and his Big Gas buddies. The pipeline has been opposed tooth-and-nail by a coalition of those living along the proposed route, indigenous rights activists and environmental organizations who have recently been gaining the upper hand against the coal czar and his fossil fuel buddies. 

If approved, it would carry fracked Appalachian shale gas 300 miles across a vast network of streams and wetlands on its path from West Virginia to Virginia exposing fragile ecosystems and groundwater to dangerous leakage and pollution. 

And the pipeline potentially would generate close to 100 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Per YEAR, the equivalent of adding 26 coal-fired power plant at a time when the failure to swiftly rein in carbon pollution would have devastating consequences for life on Earth. 

All aspects of the project will affect people’s lives and health. 

The Manchin mandate requires "relevant agencies" to "take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and give the D.C. Circuit jurisdiction over any further litigation." 

This last provision would remove cases about the pipeline from the jurisdiction of the Fourth District court that has been attentive to the concerns of those opposing it and allow one perceived to be more business-friendly to weigh in. 

Unfortunately these giveaways to the subsidized and protected fossil fuel industry will also set precedents empowering the industry to aggressively oppose legislation in progress here in Los Angeles and California intended to protect Angelenos’ health and reduce the cost of energy. 

Since most of Manchin’s demands fell outside the bounds of the reconciliation bill just passed and have to be passed as separate legislation, this will give everyone from environmentalists to economists another bite at the apple. 

And since it would require a 60-vote majority, Republicans would have to join whatever Democrats honored their leaders’ promise to move this legislation forward. 

We can only hope that all environmentally-conscious Dems oppose or, at least don’t show up for the Manchin steal vote. 

This might create an interesting dilemma for many Senators. On one hand, the dealmakers could try to include it in some must-pass legislation such as government funding but so many of the constituents opposed to Manchin and his self-interest of both moderates as well as progressives may force that hand. On the other, such legislation may include too much of what corporatist Republicans would find toxic. 

There is also the wild card New York Times economist Paul Krugman calls the GOP politics of spite. 

And then there is Krysten Sinema, another Dem darling of the Republican right. 

Since her Big Pharma bros would be minimally impacted by the limited drug savings Medicare might be able to negotiate, it came down to appeasing her Wall Street homies – a group she hopes to join someday. 

If she can continue to bring home the bacon. 

Schumer capitulated on the carried-interest tax loophole that allows a few well-heeled hedge fund investors and private equity barons whose 20% skim off the top of investment returns as payment for their services be taxed at the capital gains rate of 20% instead of the 37% their tax bracket requires. 

THIS, however, is one of the most egregious and offensive tax breaks for the uber-affluent. It is money earned and this tax break costs the US Treasury Department between $1.4 billion and $18 billion. A year. 

So Sinema can count on a limited number of very wealthy individuals to flood her campaign coffers, while American taxpayers have to cover the difference. 

The Democratic majority in the House should not have a problem passing the bill so long as they don’t try to add back those dreamed-of Build Back Better Act benefits that Manchinema tanked last December, provisions that crash-landed in the conservative Senate. 

It is, in many ways, a vastly improvement with some of the more problematic and punitive aspects of the House bill replaced by incentives. And GOP partisans will have trouble in rallying the troops because too much contained in the Inflation Reduction Act will benefit their own electoral base. 

To ensure Biden can quickly sign it into law, most progressives will just hold their noses and vote in in a “we’ll-take-what-we-can-get mode” for the remaining benefits in the bill. 

And not passing the bill and its significant incentives for renewable energy now would lock the fossil fuel subsidizing status quo in place for the next decade. 

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)