President-elect Joe Biden’s promise of $2,000 stimulus payments to Americans has run into a reality check in the form of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
When first asked about the checks, which Biden promised to dole out while campaigning for Democrats to win the Georgia special election that was held this week, Manchin told The Washington Post “absolutely not,” a comment that made the rounds of the news media.
Manchin said he and Biden had a “difference of opinion” in a comment to The Post during his original interview that was later picked up by WTHR-TV.
“How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed?” he said in a comment picked up by Fox News. “And I can’t tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that’s already got a check.”
“I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from,” Manchin said. “I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion.”
Later, in a follow-up interview, Manchin said the critical issue would be targeting checks to only focus on those with the greatest unmet needs.
He also said that sending out checks is a lower priority than getting Americans vaccinated.
“If they can direct money and they say, ‘This will help stimulate the economy,’ hell yeah I’m for it,” Manchin said.
“But basically right now, you better get them vaccinated.”
Biden on Friday said that the checks will be part of a relief package he will propose that will ship billions in aid to local governments, increase unemployment payouts, send millions to schools and also help small businesses.
“The price tag will be high,” Biden said, with The Post estimating the cost at several trillion dollars that would come on top of about $4 trillion already being spent to address the impacts of COVID-19.
On the campaign trail in Georgia leading up to the Senate runoffs there, Biden promised fast action to get $2,000 checks in Americans’ hands.
“Their election will put an end to the block in Washington — that $2,000 stimulus check — that money would go out the door immediately, to help people who are in real trouble,” Biden said, according to The Post. “Think about what it will mean to your lives — putting food on the table, paying rent.”
Liberal groups expect Biden to deliver now that Democrats will control the White House and both houses of Congress.
“Joe Biden and the entire Democratic Party were incredibly clear of the stakes here, starting with the $2,000 checks and massive economic relief policies that put money and resources in the hands of the people,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of the activist group Social Security Works.
“They’re now going to have to deliver that, starting with the checks on day one.”
But day one may be a few days away.
Although Democrats will control the Senate once Georgia certifies the results of Tuesday’s race that saw Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock defeat their GOP opponents, that may not happen immediately.
Further, the razor-thin House majority and the current 50-50 split in the Senate mean that any Democratic defections — for any reason — could lead to the defeat of any bill that senate leaders seek to pass with a simple majority in the upper chamber. Because the vice president breaks tie votes in the Senate, a tie goes to the Democrats on the assumption Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will support a Democratic proposal.
In its reporting on stimulus proposals being floated about, The Post noted there is some support for a round of $1,400 checks on top of the $600 checks that passed Congress last month to bring the total to $2,000.
That’s not quite how Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont phrased it in a Thursday interview with CNN.
“The first order of business, by the way, is to pass an emergency COVID-19 bill which, among many other things, says to working-class Americans, ‘We know you’re in pain. And we’re going to get you a $2,000 check for every working-class adult in this country. We are on your side,’” Sanders said.
Manchin spokesman Sam Runyon told Fox that Manchin will make his final decisions based upon the proposals in front of him once those arrive.
“He has also said repeatedly that when the Biden administration comes in they can assess the needs of the American people and submit proposals to Congress about how best to address those needs,” Runyon said.
“When the time comes, Sen. Manchin will evaluate those proposals. He has also made clear that the focus when delivering economic relief must be on those who are unemployed through no fault of their own.”