President Joe Biden applied pressure to Sen. Joe Manchin to convince the moderate West Virginia Democrat to support a $1.9 trillion spending package earlier this year, according to a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
In “Peril,” the authors write that Biden warned Manchin during a phone conversation right before a crucial vote concerning the passage of his COVID-19 stimulus bill in March, according to an excerpt published by The Washington Post.
The authors say the call occurred on March 5, a day before senators were scheduled to vote on the “American Rescue Plan.” Manchin, at the time, was viewed as an obstacle to the bill’s passage after having expressed concerns that the outsized unemployment benefits contained in the legislation would harm post-pandemic economic recovery efforts — a concern that turned out to be prophetic.
“If you don’t come along, you’re really f**king me,” Biden allegedly told Manchin, according to the Post.
The West Virginian did decide to get on board with the chamber’s 49 other Democrats to pass the bill on a 50-49 party line vote, which was Biden’s first legislative victory following his Jan. 20 inauguration.
A final version of the bill passed after Dems agreed to Manchin’s demand at the last minute to decrease federal employment benefits against the president’s wishes, while also adding a number of amendments that Manchin backed.
The storyline is relevant given that Manchin is once again serving as a roadblock to an even larger spending package, a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan he opposes for its sheer size.
“We don’t have an urgency. Don’t you think we ought to debate a little more, talk about it, see what we got out there?” Manchin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Host Chuck Todd interjected by suggesting that the West Virginia Democrat may be able to support the bill at some point overall, but Manchin pushed back: “No, not $3.5 trillion.”
“We’ve got 5.4 out right now,” Manchin continued, making reference to funds in previous spending measures like the $1.9 trillion Biden reportedly pressed him to support that have not been dispersed yet. “It’s going to be a lot more than 3.5 over eight-to-ten years,” he added, because “it’ll continue — a lot of these programs never come off” of future budgets.
“With that being said, that’s a social reform. I’m just saying we need to be looking at everything and we’re not,” Manchin added. “We don’t have the need to rush into this and get it done within one week because there’s some deadline we’re meeting or someone’s going to fall through the cracks.
“I want to make sure that children are getting taken care of, that people are basically having an opportunity to go back to work,” he noted further. “We have 11 million jobs that we haven’t filled, 8 million people still unemployed. Something’s not matching up there.”
In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that states which cut off federal unemployment benefits of an additional $300 per week on top of state benefits saw employment surge, which appeared to justify Manchin’s early opposition to outsized benefits.
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