Manchin pressured ahead of COVID-19 stimulus vote

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As coronavirus legislation hangs in limbo, the Democratic senator from the Mountain State is under intense pressure to back the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal pushed by the Democratic-held White House and lauded by his state’s Republican governor. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a moderate with a reputation for working across party lines. And with little margin for error for Senate Democrats in a 50-50 chamber, he’s being squeezed to vote with Democrats on an upcoming effort to pass coronavirus relief via budget reconciliation.

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. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a moderate with a reputation for working across party lines. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

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 [about it],” 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.”

Then on Monday, Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who was previously a Democrat, echoed the vice president’s call for a larger stimulus package in an interview with CNN.

“Trying to be per se fiscally responsible at this point in time … if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?” he said. “We have really got to move and get people taken care of.”

The governor later doubled down in an interview on MSNBC, calling on Congress to “go big” and continued his media tour with an interview with The Washington Post. 

Manchin has been reluctant to sign on to President Joe Biden’s proposal, saying stimulus payments must be more targeted.

“Sending checks to people that basically already have a check and aren’t going to be able to spend that or are not going to spend it, usually are putting it in their savings account right now, that’s not who we are,” he said in an interview with CNN last month. “We have done an awful lot of that, it’s time now to target where the money goes.”

Meanwhile, a group of 10 moderate Senate Republicans is aiming to get Biden to bring down his $1.9 trillion ask and Monday put forward a plan that would cost just over $600 billion. Both the White House and the group of Republicans said a meeting on the proposal went well Monday. But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned that Biden “will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”

Despite pressure mounting on the national and local levels  — and from both sides of the aisle — on Manchin over how he’ll vote if Democrats try to push through Biden’s coronavirus relief proposal via budget reconciliation, he’s so far not committed to doing so. 

Fox News asked Manchin’s office Monday whether he would commit to backing Biden’s plan if it’s moved via reconciliation. 

“Senator Manchin is still committed to a bipartisan path forward,” a spokesperson responded. 

Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report. 

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