Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)–the moderate lawmaker who influenced some of the biggest last-minute changes to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal–defended the $100 decrease in weekly unemployment insurance on Sunday and insisted that he will continue to work with Republicans on future legislation.
Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Manchin said keeping enhanced weekly unemployment benefits at $300–as passed into law by the December stimulus package but below Biden’s proposed $400–helped ensure Republicans wouldn’t further delay a vote on the stimulus bill after they sparked an overnight session Friday.
“If we stay at $300 for unemployment, it’s seamless; no one misses a paycheck at all,” Manchin said, touting the new provisions that extended the relief for another week (through September 6) and provided a tax break on the first $10,200 of unemployment relief in 2020.
Manchin balked at a question about whether he is abusing his newfound position as “the most powerful member of Congress,” saying he did not lobby for the position that effectively gives him a swing vote on issues divided by party lines and added that he will continue to be a part of the “moderate” and “common sense middle.”
Among House-passed stimulus provisions that lost their legs during Senate negotiations–largely at the hands of opposition from Manchin and a few other moderate Democrats–were direct payments to Americans making as much as $120,000 annually.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) on Saturday blasted the Senate-passed stimulus bill as “stuffed with pork,” echoing Republican contempt over the bill for, among other things, providing stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants and including provisions (such as several years of education funding) that are not “actual and urgent Covid relief.”
What To Watch For
The House is slated to vote on the stimulus package passed by the Senate as soon as Tuesday, giving President Biden enough time to sign the bill before current unemployment benefits expire on March 14.
The American Rescue Plan passed in the Senate on Saturday in a 50-49 vote with no Republican support. The vote was delayed after Manchin said he wouldn’t support extending the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the end of September but passed after Senate Democrats reached a compromise to end the assistance on September 6.
Manchin also told NBC on Sunday that he’s open to using budget reconciliation–the process that allowed Biden’s stimulus plan to pass with no Republican votes in the House or Senate–again to pass further legislation. However, he said he still supports the controversial filibuster, which can effectively bar a non-reconciliation vote from happening by delaying it indefinitely, though he did say it should be “harder to invoke.”