Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., bowed to immense pressure Tuesday and announced he would vote in favor of a budget resolution Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., brought forward Monday that should lay the groundwork for President Biden’s $1.9T Covid relief package.
Manchin said he would vote in favor of the budget resolution but would continue to fight for bipartisanship in the process of negotiations.
Through the resolution, House and Senate committees would be able to draft parts of a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill. It’s not clear that Manchin will vote for the final bill Democrats come up with, but if he does a final bill could pass without any Republican support.
“The resolution I’m going to support – this process. I only support this if it’s an open process. But it is urgent. This is the only way we can get a bipartisan package,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday.
The West Virginia Democrat, often dubbed one of the most powerful lawmakers in the 117th Congress due to his moderate stance in a 50-50 Senate, had been torn between pressure from the top of his party to support the sweeping legislation and pleas from moderate Republicans to join them on a $600 billion aid plan. Ten Senate Republicans met with the president Monday night to try to rein in spending for his proposal and offer him their more targeted legislation.
“Very encouraging to see the president entertaining this first meeting with 10 of my Republican colleagues and friends,” Manchin said. The White House has said Biden is happy to hear input from the GOP, but it won’t “slow down” for Republicans in providing aid they believe is needed urgently throughout the country. A $900 billion package was passed in December.
Manchin seemed optimistic there would be bipartisan input in the final draft of the package but said he didn’t have a topline number for cost in mind.
“Nothing should be taken off the table – that’s how negotiations start. They’re going to negotiate,” he said.
Last week, the White House took to Manchin’s home state to twist his arm on the legislation.
Last Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris pitched the White House’s “American Rescue Plan” directly to West Virginians on WSAZ, a station in the Huntingdon/Charleston, W.Va., market.
“The American people deserve their leaders to step up and stand up for them,” Harris said in the interview.
But in a subsequent interview with WSAZ, Manchin said he was left out of the conversation.
“I saw [the interview]. I couldn’t believe it. No one called me,” he said. “We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward, but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together.”
Asked Tuesday if the White House had apologized for not including him in Harris’ plan to address his state, Manchin said: “There’s no apologies needed. I mean, we’re all in this. We understand that. It was a mistake, they made a mistake. And we understand, we move on. We can’t dwell on those things.”
Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., filed their budget resolution Monday and instructed committees to provide $1,400 per person in stimulus checks, which combined with December’s package would total $2,000, and direct payments to families for each child. Stimulus checks have been a core focus of the Biden administration.
Manchin has been leery of the $2,000 number. “I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from. I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion dollars,” he said in a recent interview.
He said the first priority should be getting people vaccinated, not sending out checks.
“If they can direct money and they say, this will help stimulate the economy, hell, yeah I’m for it,” Manchin said. “But basically right now, you better get ’em vaccinated.”
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