Manchin threatens to block $4 TRILLION climate and infrastructure bill if Dems don’t loop in GOP

Joe Manchin, 73, won’t accept a simple majority rule in the Senate, threatening in a Monday clip to block Joe Biden’s next massive legislative overhaul if Democrats don’t allow Republicans a seat at the negotiating table.

The centrist West Virginia Democratic senator told ‘Axios on HBO’ in an interview clip released Monday that he will demand the GOP have a bigger voice on Biden’s climate and infrastructure package – which could reach an outstanding $4 trillion – than they had on COVID stimulus.

‘I’m not going to do it through reconciliation,’ Manchin told Axios’ Mike Allen when speaking of the next bill. ‘I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start.’

Reconciliation requires Congress only reach a simple majority to pass a piece of legislation – like with the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that just passed the Senate on Saturday.

He also warned Democratic colleagues against forcing through legislation by a simple majority.

‘I would say this to my friends. You’ve got power,’ Manchin said. ‘Don’t abuse it. And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you throw the filibuster out.’

Senator Joe Manchin told Axios that he won’t support Democrats ruling by a simple majority in the Senate. ‘I would say this to my friends. You’ve got power. Don’t abuse it,’ he told Axios

He threatened to hold up President Joe Biden's next $4 trillion climate and infrastructure bill if Democrats don't loop in the GOP on negotiations

He threatened to hold up President Joe Biden’s next $4 trillion climate and infrastructure bill if Democrats don’t loop in the GOP on negotiations 

While Manchin voted with Democrats on the sweeping legislation, he said that won’t happen again if Republicans are cut out of the process.

Manchin claimed that President Biden should expect the pushback on a massive climate and infrastructure bill considering ‘he’s the first president we’ve had to really, really understand the workings of the Senate since LBJ.’

The legislation is expected to top the coronavirus relief bill, with an expectation it will land somewhere between $2 and $4 trillion.

The Democratic senator who represents a red, pro-Trump state told Axios that he would support a $4 trillion package as long as it is paid for by tax hikes – meaning it would be paid for in full and not further put the U.S. in debt.

Specifically, he talked about a corporate tax rate increase of ‘at least’ 4 per cent – from 21 per cent to 25 per cent. He also mentioned ‘a lot’ of rollback on Donald Trump’s tax cuts for wealthy.

Manchin chairs the Energy Committee and said he does support forcing Republicans to confront the climate crisis reality.

In the two January Senate runoff elections in Georgia, the Senate settled on a 50-50 split – with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

Republicans were therefore stripped of their majority and Democrats earned the slimmest majority possible requiring a vote from Harris on legislation of which they don’t even earn one GOP vote.

Manchin isn’t happy that Republicans were cut out of COVID relief negotiations, and forced a marathon voting session overnight Friday to Saturday where he was able to get the bill to reduce unemployment benefits boosts from $400 per week to $300.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace insisted Sunday morning that Manchin is ‘enjoying your position of power maybe a little too much.’

‘Do you like being the most powerful member of Congress, the swing vote in a 50/50 senate? Do you like that, sir?’ the ‘Fox News Sunday’ host asked him.

‘No, I do not and I did not lobby for this, did not seek it out,’ Manchin insisted.

Wallace pushed by pointing out that Manchin has killed several Democratic initiatives in the package and said: ‘You are on four Sunday shows today.’

He then asked the senator: ‘Are you enjoying your position of power maybe a little too much?’

‘I sure hope not,’ Manchin insisted. ‘Oh, my goodness. That would be horrible. That’s not – no. I want to make sure people understand. I am in that common-sense middle. That’s who I am.’

In the two Georgia Senate runoff elections in January, Democrats secured a very slim majority in the upper chamber with a 50/50 split and Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

Manchin, as the most centrist Democrat in the Senate, quickly emerged as the most powerful lawmakers, essentially holding veto power over legislation and cabinet confirmations with which he does not agree.

Other than Fox News, Manchin also appeared on CNN, NBC and ABC morning shows on Sunday. 

The appearances came after Manchin held up the Senate all night Friday to Saturday in a marathon voting session on the latest COVID relief legislation.

On NBC News’ ‘Meet the Press,’ Manchin told host Chuck Todd that he will refuse to cut Republicans out of negotiations as they presented amendments to the sweeping package.

‘I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority,’ Manchin said during his NBC interview.

‘We can fix everything if we just talk to each other and negotiate,’ the centrist Democrat continued. ‘That’s what it’s about. And that’s what we did. It took a little longer than necessary, but we got it done.’

Fox News host Chris Wallace asked centrist Democrat Senator Joe Manchin if he is 'enjoying your position of power maybe a little too much' as he appeared on four shows Sunday morning after holding up the vote on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Fox News host Chris Wallace asked centrist Democrat Senator Joe Manchin if he is ‘enjoying your position of power maybe a little too much’ as he appeared on four shows Sunday morning after holding up the vote on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Manchin appeared on four separate shows for interviews Sunday, and during his appearance on NBC he said he isn't willing to cut Republicans out of the legislative process

Manchin appeared on four separate shows for interviews Sunday, and during his appearance on NBC he said he isn’t willing to cut Republicans out of the legislative process

The Senate held a marathon all-nighter Friday to Saturday negotiating certain relief points in the package – including reducing the amount of boosted weekly unemployment benefits.

Manchin said there was never a ‘hill to die on’ for him with negotiations, but instead said he just wants some sort of bipartisanship in the federal legislature.

Democrats hold a majority in the House and now a very slim majority in the Senate – meaning they can virtually pass any legislation they want. But centrist Senator Manchin of West Virginia is making that a bit harder by ensuring Republicans have a say in the process.

On Sunday morning, Manchin made the rounds on network television, appearing on NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox News to talk about why he held up the package. 

Blurry-eyed senators voted through President Joe Biden’s massive COVID relief bill with no support from Republicans on Saturday.

To finally get a version accepted, Democrats were forced to change eligibility requirements for direct checks of $1,400 and they had to strike a deal with moderates over unemployment benefits.

After labouring through the night on a mountain of amendments – nearly all from Republicans – senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 vote along party lines just after midday Saturday.

Celebrating the passing of the bill after a session that began 7:00 a.m. on Friday, Biden hailed the ‘bipartisan support of the American people’ and said checks could be sent out next week – even though far-left Democrats can still block the latest version as it’s sent back to the House. 

Senators passed the stimulus bill along direct party lines at just after midday EST Saturday

Senators passed the stimulus bill along direct party lines at just after midday EST Saturday

Biden hopes to sign the bill into law next week providing it passes the House, meaning $1,400 stimulus checks could soon be on their way to households across the country

Biden hopes to sign the bill into law next week providing it passes the House, meaning $1,400 stimulus checks could soon be on their way to households across the country

What does the COVID relief bill include  

MORE CHECKS: The legislation provides a direct payment of $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple that files jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent. Individuals earning up to $75,000 will get the full amount, as will married couples with incomes up to $150,000.

The size of the check will shrink for those making slightly more, with a hard cut-off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples. Most Americans will be getting the full amount. The median household income was $68,703 in 2019.

AID TO THE UNEMPLOYED: Expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government will be extended through Sept. 6 at $300 a week. That’s on top of what beneficiaries are getting through their state unemployment insurance program. The first $10,200 of jobless benefits would be non-taxable for households with incomes under $150,000. 

MONEY FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: The legislation will send $350 billion to state and local governments and tribal governments for costs incurred up until the end of 2024. The bill also requires that small states get at least the amount they received under virus legislation that Congress passed last March. 

AID TO SCHOOLS: The bill will provide about $130 billion in additional help to schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Spending for colleges and universities will be boosted by about $40 billion.

AID TO BUSINESSES: A new program for restaurants and bars hurt by the pandemic will receive $25 billion. The grants provide up to $10 million per company with a limit of $5 million per physical location. The grants can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities and other operational expenses.

The bill also provides $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a tiny fraction of what was allocated in previous legislation.

TESTING AND VACCINES: The bill provides $46 billion to expand federal, state and local testing for COVID-19 and to enhance contract tracing capabilities with new investments to expand laboratory capacity and set up mobile testing units. It also contains about $14 billion to speed up the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.

HEALTH CARE: Financial assistance for ACA premiums will become considerably more generous and a greater number of solid middle-class households would qualify. Though the sweetened subsidies last only through the end of 2022, they will lower the cost of coverage and are expected to boost the number of people enrolled. 

BIGGER TAX BREAKS FOR HOUSEHOLDS: Under current law, most taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax bill by up to $2,000 per child. In a significant change, the bill will increase the tax break to $3,000 for every child age 6 to 17 and $3,600 for every child under the age of 6.

The bill also significantly expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for 2021 by making it available to people without children. The credit for low and moderate-income adults would be worth $543 to $1,502, depending on income and filing status.

RENTAL AND HOMEOWNER ASSISTANCE: The bill provides about $30 billion to help low-income households and the unemployed afford rent and utilities, and to assist the homeless with vouchers and other support. States and tribes would receive an additional $10 billion for homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments because of the pandemic.

Manchin voted with his Democratic colleagues after an agreement to cut unemployment benefits.

Vice President Kamala Harris was not needed to break the tie because Republican Senator Dan Sullivan returned to Alaska for a funeral.

The legislation will now be shipped back to the House for its expected approval, before being sent to Biden in the coming week for his signature.

Manchin acknowledged, but did not dive into the factor that there may be some issues getting progressives to sign off the bill – mainly with the change in unemployment weekly boosted benefits being cut from $400 to $300.

‘I’m not willing to go into reconciliation until we at least get bipartisanship or get working together or allow the Senate to do its job,’ Manchin told NBC’s Chuck Todd.  

The huge package – consisting of nearly one-tenth the size of the entire economy – is Biden’s biggest early priority. However, it only passed after cutting direct payments, reducing unemployment benefits and failing on $15 minimum wage.

Speaking outside the White House, Biden greeted the passing of the bill today, saying ‘brighter times were ahead’. 

He continued: ‘This nation has suffered too much for much too long. And everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation, and put us in a better position to prevail.’ 

Biden continued: ‘When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people help was on the way. Today I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward on delivering on that promise — that help is on the way.’

He thanked Vice President Kamala Harris and senators ‘who worked so hard to reach a compromise’ after cuts to unemployment benefits were agreed to secure the support of moderate Democrat Joe Manchin.  

Biden, who prides himself of his bipartisanship, tried to deflect attention from the lack of any Republican support for the bill by pointing to its overwhelming popularity among voters of all political persuasions.   

‘I really want to thank the American people for making all this possible,’ he said. ‘How did they make it possible? Quite frankly, without the overwhelming, bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened.’  

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said after the bill’s passing: ‘We tell the American people: help is on the way’. 

Citing the country’s desire to return to normality, he added: ‘Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.’  

Far-left Democrats are angry at the size of the package, with Ilhan Omar calling it ‘very disappointing’. She added: ‘We obviously are now ultimately sending money to less people than the Trump administration.’  

They were also frustrated at a Senate agreement to reduce eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks. 

This will see the amount gradually reduced until it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000.  

Jobless workers will now receive $300 per week, on top of benefits offered by their state unemployment system, until September 6. 

That is $100 per week less than the unemployment benefit passed by the House. 

The bill will now be shipped back to the House – which is expected to give final congressional approval and whisk the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature.   

The legislation will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans and money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, aid to state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry and subsidies for health insurance. 

‘I feel bad for Joe Manchin. I hope the Geneva Convention applies to him,’ joked Republican Senator John Thune to reporters on Capitol Hill. 

‘I just think that the Democrats right now are in a bit of a quandary.’

He continued: ‘I mean, they’ve essentially stopped action on the floor so that they can try and persuade, I think, all their members to stay together on some of these votes.’    

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said of Manchin. ‘I don’t know where they’re at. The public needs to know. Save Joe Manchin!’

‘I think they’re trying to wear down Joe Manchin, who is intent on making sure we don’t spend more than we have to. This is on unemployment insurance,’ Republican Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters of the hold up.

Moderate Democrats, led by Sen. Tom Carper, had offered an amendment to lower federal unemployment benefits to $300 from $400 per week but to then extend the payments from August until October.  

Manchin had reportedly favored a Republican amendment that would have the $300 weekly payments run through July, before the deal was struck. 

Democratic Senators Krysten Sinema, Jon Tester and Catherine Cortez Masto cornered Manchin on the Senate floor after senators rejected an effort by Bernie Sanders to include a $15 an hour minimum wage in the package.

When the lawmakers realized their efforts to persuade Manchin were being watched by reporters, they moved back into one of cloakrooms of the Senate floor to speak more privately.  

Republican senators had offered multiple amendments to the bill, which Democrats claim is necessary to help the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The GOP protests the bill’s cost and claim it’s filled with progressive priorities.

‘Votearama is upon us,’ said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham before Friday’s action started. ‘Stay hydrated. Try to keep good cheer. We’re going to have lots of amendments today and kind of talk about where we differ on certain things, which will be good for the country.’

‘It’s going to be a long day,’ he added. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders shot back: ‘Bring it on. We’re ready.’ 

Harris had to rush up to the Capitol on Thursday afternoon to break a tie vote to allow the Senate to start debate on the relief package

Harris had to rush up to the Capitol on Thursday afternoon to break a tie vote to allow the Senate to start debate on the relief package 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of ‘ramming through an ideological spending spree packed with non COVID related policies.’ 

Harris had to rush up to the Capitol on Thursday afternoon to break a tie vote to allow the Senate to start debate on the relief package. 

After she cast her vote, Johnson made his motion to have the bill read aloud.

Bill readings are almost always dispensed with at the start to allow for debate, but Johnson saw it as way to register his frustration over the massive outlay of federal spending. 

‘I feel bad for the clerks that are going to have to read it, but it’s just important,’ said Johnson, who has already faced criticism this week for suggesting the deadly January 6 US Capitol riot was not an ‘armed insurrection.’

‘Why are we authorizing another $1.9 trillion when we still have a trillion dollars sitting on the sidelines’ unspent from the previous pandemic relief bills? he told reporters.

‘It’s actually hard to spend this much money.’  

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