CNN anchor Jake Tapper relentlessly grilled Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Sunday morning over the conservative Democrat’s push to water down the recently passed coronavirus relief bill, wondering aloud why the West Virginia lawmaker fought so hard for “less help” during this “cruel economic time.”
Prior to Saturday’s passage of the massive bill, which if signed into law will provide $1400 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans, the process was brought to a 12-hour standstill during the Senate’s nearly daylong “vote-a-rama.” This amounted in large part to Democrats working frantically to win support from Manchin. After forcing modifications to the bill that included a reduction in the duration and amount of expanded unemployment benefits, Manchin eventually relented and voted in support of the sweeping relief package.
Manchin, who appeared on four separate news shows on Sunday morning, found himself immediately confronted by Tapper over his push to weaken the bill during his interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
“So after changes that you pushed for, enhanced federal unemployment benefits now expire about a month earlier and there’s a new income cap for writing them off on your taxes,” Tapper stated. “I have to say, you represent one of the lowest-income states in the nation. Why were you fighting for less help for citizens during this cruel economic time?”
Manchin, for his part, claimed that all he did was “make sure we were targeting where the help was needed,” adding that due to the child tax credits contained in the relief package that they are “giving more help to individuals than ever before.” At the same time, he defended the income cap for tax deductions contained in the bill.
“We capped it that anybody over $150,000 could not use that offset,” he said. “Anybody below it that is struggling and working, or the middle class, is able to do that. That was a fair compromise. We worked through that and got it done.”
But the CNN anchor pointed out even if bipartisanship is “very important” to Manchin, no Republicans ended up supporting the legislation in the end.
“Who do you blame for the fact that this bill got no Republican support in Congress?” Tapper pressed.
“I never do place blame. What I do place is basically we don’t have the tolerance to sit down and work more,” the senator responded, adding: “This was more of a bipartisan bill than you might think.”
Tapper eventually swung the conversation to the failed attempt to include a $15 minimum wage in the bill, noting that Manchin and moderate Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have been singled out by progressives for holding back and calling for a smaller wage increase.
While Manchin said that there isn’t one member of the Senate that doesn’t want to increase the federal minimum wage, he continued to indicate that $15 is too much of a jump despite polls showing broad support for just that.
“You figure the numbers, it comes out to $11,” the West Virginia lawmaker said. “That is how I got to 11. We can do that very quickly, too, within a couple of years. Once we get to $11, it should be indexed for inflation so it never becomes a political football again.”