Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) slammed Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday for pushing the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid proposal on a West Virginia television station.
Manchin said he was not consulted prior to the interview that was aimed at his constituents. The Democratic senator, one of the few widely-recognized moderate Democrats in the upper chamber, is leading efforts with a moderate Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, on a compromise package.
“I saw it. I couldn’t believe it. No one called me,” Manchin said of Harris’ Thursday interview on West Virginia’s WSAZ. “We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward. I think we need to. But we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together, what was done.”
Biden has drawn criticism from the GOP for pushing a message of “unity” while pursuing a number of executive actions largely aimed at tearing down former President Donald Trump’s legacy. Manchin’s comments add fuel to Republicans’ charge that the Biden administration is more concerned with appealing to his left-wing base than striking bipartisan deals in Congress.
Manchin has criticized Biden’s proposed package, which would give $1,400 aid checks to most Americans. Manchin said that the aid should be more targeted to those Americans who need it most.
“We met [Biden’s] economic team and they put out what they wanted. We said, ‘Just show us the figures.’ Because people need to know. We want to help everybody that needs help,” Manchin told WSAZ. “But if a person is making $250,000 or $300,000, I don’t think they’re in much as need as a person making $40,000 or $50,000. We’re going to target it.”
Harris did a pair of interviews pitching the Biden administration’s plan on Thursday, one to WSAZ in West Virginia and the other on a local television station in Arizona. The White House appears to have targeted the states of moderate Democrats that control the fate of President Joe Biden’s aid package in the Senate. The future and make-up of the aid package rests largely on Manchin and two others.
As The New York Times reports:
The effort is complicated by Democrats’ tenuous grip on power in the Senate, which is split 50-50 but where Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties in her party’s favor. Those numbers give enormous sway to the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, including Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana. Any one of them could balk at the size of Mr. Biden’s demands and force a smaller package.
When pressed on the purpose of Harris’ interviews, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded that “we want to make the case to the American people across the country. … This is a way to do just that.”
Psaki later demurred on giving any specific reason why Arizona and West Virginia voters were targeted with the White House message, saying “I think [Harris will] do a number of additional regional calls and regional interviews, as will members of the team.”