Activists lack the leverage to stop Manchin’s side deal as a government shutdown looms.

By Mark Fiore, The Progressive Magazine

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) isn’t known for taking risks. The centrist Democrat and former CIA officer famously chastised her progressive colleagues on a private conference call in 2020 after the party lost more than a dozen House seats to Republicans, narrowing its majority in Congress and leaving the newly elected President Joe Biden with a tougher landscape through which he could advance his agenda.

In the heated three-hour phone call, Spanberger blamed the party’s embrace of far-left leaning policies, including efforts to “defund the police,” for the election losses, and warned that Democrats risked getting “f—cking torn apart in 2022.”

“We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” Spanberger, who narrowly won her own reelection that year, said during the call. “We lost good members because of that.”

Given her reputation as a moderate, it may have surprised some observers this week to see Spanberger side with those same progressives she ridiculed two years ago. In a letter signed by 77 House Democrats, and led by Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Spanberger joined some of her most liberal colleagues in urging party leaders to abandon a controversial plan that would force lawmakers to choose between preventing a government shutdown next month and overhauling the nation’s environmental review process for new energy projects.

As part of a deal struck with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, top Democrats say they’re moving forward with a plan this month that would streamline the permitting and environmental review process for energy projects, including for fossil fuel pipelines and export terminals. That includes attaching those reforms to a critical funding bill that Congress must pass by the end of the month to continue funding government programs and paying federal workers.

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