Key Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin signs off on $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill as long as there’s a ‘bipartisan process’

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., talks with Vice President Joe Biden who conducted a mock swearing in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber. Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call

Manchin supports a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package so long as there’s bipartisan input.

“If it’s $1.9 trillion, so be it,” he said, adding that it also might be a smaller number.

Manchin has expressed willingness to scale down some measures in the bill.

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West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the Senate’s most conservative Democrats, said on Wednesday morning that he would support spending $1.9 trillion in the new COVID-19 relief package if the bill receives bipartisan input.

“If it’s $1.9 trillion, so be it,” Manchin told MSNBC. “If it’s a little smaller than that and we find a targeted need … that’s what we’re going to do. But I want it to be bipartisan. If they think we’re going to throw all caution to the wind and just shove it down people’s throats, that’s not going to happen.”

Manchin added that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday that the stimulus negotiations would be a bipartisan process, and Manchin insisted that Democrats would fulfill that promise by encouraging input from Republicans.

“We encourage a bipartisan process – that means Democrats and Republicans will have amendments,” said Manchin, who is among the moderate Democrats expected to have a significant influence on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

Manchin is a key voice in the stimulus negotiations as he represents a deep red state and often demands that Democrats work across the aisle. The senator recently insisted that he won’t support Democratic efforts to abolish the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass legislation.

Manchin has said he wants the stimulus checks to be more “targeted to those who need it,” suggested that he wouldn’t agree to $350 billion in state and local funding, and said he doesn’t support raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

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Manchin sided with his Democratic colleagues on Tuesday and voted to move the relief package through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority to pass legislation.

Democrats have the slimmest possible majority in the upper chamber and will need all 50 Democrats to support the relief package if the measure ultimately fails to win support from Republican lawmakers. Vice President Kamala Harris will likely cast the tie-breaking vote after the legislation makes its way through the reconciliation process.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the president is sticking to his proposal of $1,400 direct payments even though Republican lawmakers are pushing for $1,000 stimulus checks.

Biden, for his part, told Democratic lawmakers during a caucus call on Wednesday morning that he isn’t “married” to the $1.9 trillion number. But, he said, shrinking the relief package to the approximately $600 billion proposed by a group of Senate Republicans is “not even in the cards.”

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