Tuesday, March 21

POLITICO Playbook: What’s behind the latest Manchin drama

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

ENGAGED! — RYAN LIZZA, co-author of Playbook, and OLIVIA NUZZI, Washington correspondent for New York Magazine. Insta post from Olivia

SCOOP: MAGA, INC. — DONALD TRUMP’s top lieutenants are launching MAGA, Inc., a new super PAC “expected to spend heavily to bolster his endorsed candidates in the midterm election — and [which], some people close to the former president say, could become a campaign apparatus if he runs in 2024,” Alex Isenstadt reports this morning. It will be overseen by TAYLOR BUDOWICH, Trump’s current comms director.

“Trump has spent minimally on behalf of Republican candidates so far this year, but that’s about to change with the new super PAC,” writes Alex. “Save America, the former president’s leadership PAC and one of the best-funded entities in politics, has around a $100 million cash reserve — money that can be transferred to MAGA, Inc.”

WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT — “House GOP deploys a 2023 agenda it can use in November,” by Sarah Ferris and Olivia Beavers

MANCHIN IN THE MIDDLE — It’s perhaps the wonkiest, most in-the-weeds debate happening on Capitol Hill: The battle over Sen. JOE MANCHIN’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform bill. It’s also the biggest hold-up in the quest to keep the government from shutting down next week.

The measure (aka the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022) would basically shorten the process to get permits for energy projects. Its inclusion in the must-pass continuing resolution is the result of a deal struck between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, House Speaker NANCY PELOSI and President JOE BIDEN that secured the West Virginian’s support for the reconciliation bill.

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For Manchin and those Dem leaders, it’s the ultimate compromise: Legislation that would benefit new fossil fuel projects (including specifically approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline planned for West Virginia) and speed up the creation of new clean energy projects.

But in the eyes of some on the left, that compromise comes at too heavy a cost: Amid a climate crisis, fast-forwarding the construction of new fossil fuel pipelines is, to them, a bug, not a feature — a “huge giveaway to the fossil fuel industry,” in the words of Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.). On Thursday, he was among a group of Senate liberals who begged leadership to hold the vote as a standalone bill, rather than as part of the CR.

And yet, Manchin world feels completely confident it’s going to pass. And the reasons are pretty simple:

— It is likely at its high-water mark in terms of congressional support. Permitting reform has been a priority of Republicans for years. And right now, the vast majority of Democrats are on board — a prospect that would be hard to imagine if it were put on ice until a possible GOP congressional majority takes control and rewrites the legislation. Combine that reality with the timing (just over a month until the midterms) and legislative strategy (if the CR doesn’t pass, we’re looking at a likely government shutdown), and it’s a moment of maximum pressure to keep Dems in line.

— There’s also a pro-climate case to be made. Evidence abounds that without permitting reform, the greenhouse gas emission goals Democrats hope to reach won’t happen. Dems are lining up to support it — and “it’s not because they want to do something for Joe Manchin,” as one senior Senate Democratic aide told Playbook last night. “It’s because the reality is [that] to meet our emissions-reduction goals, all of the modeling we’ve seen … assumes that we will have done something to speed up the rate at which we’re bringing these projects online.” This permitting bill will do just that.

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It’s not just Manchin-aligned folks saying this. JESSE JENKINS, a go-to energy wonk at Princeton who advises Senate Democrats has been beating the same drum for weeks. A recent study from Jenkins’ Princeton-based REPEAT Project found that if transmission lines — which would make it easier to move electricity from renewable energy farms in rural areas — can’t be built faster, more than 80 percent of the reductions planned by the reconciliation bill won’t happen.

In a nutshell: “You can build all of these wind farms, solar farms, whatever you want. If you can’t actually get that power into my apartment building, who … cares?” one Democratic strategist familiar with the negotiations told Playbook last night. “The power just sits out there.”

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

TALK OF THIS TOWN — Michael Schaffer’s newest Capital City column: “Nina Totenberg Had a Beautiful Friendship With RBG. Her Book About It Is an Embarrassment.”

FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK — “Yoga Moms, Stoners and God: 51 Things the Internet Predicted Would Save the Democratic Party,” by Minho Kim and Ella Creamer

INSIDE TRUMP’S ‘BOTCHED’ IMPEACHMENTS — It’s hard to imagine a political event that was covered more intensively in real time than Trump’s two impeachments. But only now, 18 months after the Senate acquitted Trump a second time, are we learning crucial details about what happened behind the scenes of those proceedings. And only now are we starting to reckon with what those two failed impeachments have wrought for Congress, the presidency, and the Constitution — and who was responsible.

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That reckoning comes courtesy of Playbook’s own RACHAEL BADE and WaPo national security reporter KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, who on Oct. 18 will publish “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump” ($35). It’s an unsparing look at the characters, the calculations and, frequently, the cowardice that shaped Congress’s dealings with Trump — and how the results have likely changed impeachment forever.

On this week’s Playbook Deep Dive, Rachael and Karoun talk extensively about their book and its provocative argument with Playbook editor Mike DeBonis. It’s a reunion for the trio, who covered Capitol Hill together at the Washington Post, and watched closely as Congress struggled to hold Trump to account. They discuss why “Unchecked” is an unapologetically “both sides” book, how congressional leaders’ public rhetoric rarely matched private reality, and just how many impeachment articles President JOE BIDEN might be facing if Republicans take the House. Listen hereSubscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify