President-elect Joe Biden‘s major stimulus plan could face push back from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) who has previously voiced his desire for relief spending to be more targeted than other Democrats have proposed.
Biden unveiled his $1.9 trillion proposal on Thursday, dubbed the “American Rescue Plan.”
“We not only have an economic imperative to act now—I believe we have a moral obligation,” Biden said, in an address delivered as he detailed the plans.
Topping up stimulus check payments to $2,000 (with a further $1,400) has been included—a point which Manchin has been skeptical of in the past.
When asked by Jake Tapper on CNN earlier this month if he supported $2,000 checks, he said: “That’s not a yes or no question.”
He went on: “I am on board by helping people that need help, people that really can’t make it, people who don’t have a job, they can’t put food on their table—I am in total support of helping them.
“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. We have done an awful lot of that—it’s time now to target where the money goes.”
Manchin spoke of wanting to “put people back to work,” and spoke of infrastructure spending potentially being a boost for this.
Pressed on the checks, he said: “I am all for targeting money.”
When Tapper said “not just anybody who makes under $75,000” in regard to checks, Manchin said: “Not carte blanche across the board.”
He previously told The Washington Post he was “absolutely” for $2,000 checks, though later clarified he could support more direct payments if they were delivered in a targeted manner.
Though the Democrats will have a majority in the incoming Senate, this is by far the tightest possible margin—meaning any potential descent in their ranks could block the passage, should all Republicans also oppose.
The chamber is to be split 50/50, with Democrats accounting for 48 seats and having two independents who caucus with them and the Republicans having 50. In a tie, the vice president—set to be Kamala Harris—would cast the deciding vote.
This situation heightens the importance of Manchin’s stance, or that of any other Democrats who may hold reservations.
Should Manchin oppose, the Democrats would need to find at least one other GOP senator to come on board with them. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has previously been a major proponent of raising the amount given by stimulus checks—so is one potential ally at least in that aspect of the relief proposal.
Democrats had previously called for the $2,000 stimulus checks, with a measure for this passing the House before stalling in the Senate with GOP leadership adverse to the idea.
The last bipartisan package was worth around $900 billion and passed in December. It included $600 direct payments, which started being distributed earlier this month.
Newsweek has contacted Manchin’s office and the Biden transition team for comment.
Joe Biden’s Huge Stimulus Plans Face Joe Manchin Hurdle in Senate The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Newsweek.