Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WVa. defended his role in pushing through President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on “Special Report” Tuesday after the bill passed the Senate without a single Republican vote.
Critics accused Manchin of abandoning his earlier pledge not to vote down the party line on the final legislation unless Congress could make it “work in a bipartisan way.”
“What happened?” host Bret Baier asked.
Manchin insisted that there was “an awful lot of Republican input in that bill that I worked on and the things I was able to put in there,” pointing specifically to provisions involving directo funding to counties and municipalities. as well as capping unemployment insurance benefits at $300.
The Democrat acknowledged that the final $1.9 trillion price tag was a long way from the $1.4 trillion figure that Republicans were willing to support.
“I believed we could have done a bill hopefully in that $1.4, $1.5 range, but that wasn’t to be,” he said. “At the end of the day, you had to look at basically what we were doing to help America, helping different people throughout this country, and trying to get the country back on its feet.
“It was a bill that in my state helped so many people in so many different ways, and at the end, when we were able to make a few adjustments here and there, it was a bill I could support.”
Manchin, a moderate with a reputation for working across party lines, was the key vote Democrats needed to advance the Biden proposal via budget reconciliation. With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats had no margin for error.
Manchin’s willingness to stray from his party has been highlighted in recent months by his stated refusal to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate on a bill.
The lawmaker maintained Tuesday that his position on ending the filibuster remains unchanged, but he added that believes it should be harder to utilize.
When Baier said that Machin’s apparent reversal on the COVID relief deal created some “cynicism about the bipartisan action that you’re talking about,” the lawmaker doubled down, pledging never to “forsake my belief that the minority should have input.”
“So you’re going to stand firm [on the filibuster]?” the Fox News host pressed again.
“Oh, yes,” Manchin said. “I think everybody knows that.”