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Manchin defends effort to stall Democrats’ stimulus plan

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday defended his role in stalling the Senate’s passage of President Joe Biden’s massive stimulus plan for hours into the weekend, saying he was pushing for a “fair compromise” on a tax provision for unemployment benefits.

The West Virginia Democrat played a key role in the Senate’s passage of the $1.9 trillion relief package on Saturday, having agreed to extend $300 weekly unemployment benefits through September 6, about a month earlier than what Democrats had envisioned, while also limiting a provision to make the first $10,200 in benefits nontaxable apply only to households making less than $150,000.

“Basically, to be fair for the people out there working all the time, paying their share of taxes, that was something we were concerned about also, so we limited it to $150,000. We capped it that anybody over $150,000 could not use that offset,” Manchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “Anybody below it that’s struggling and working, more the middle class, is able to do that. That was a fair compromise. We worked through that and got it done.”

The senator’s efforts to change the relief bill have angered some of the more progressive members of his party, who argue he watered down the package ahead of its close passage in the chamber. But in an evenly divided Senate, the moderate Democrat now holds a critical vote in whether to advance or stall the new President’s agenda.

The Senate passed the bill in a 50-49 vote along party lines. The House will vote Tuesday on the bill to approve changes made in the Senate, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced, and then it will advance to Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Pressed by Tapper on whether he was under any pressure by the President on his vote, Manchin said their “conversations have always been cordial.”

“And the only thing he has ever said, ‘Joe, never go against your convictions, always do what you think is right. And I always appreciate that encouragement and we work very well together,” he added.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told Tapper later on the program that the White House is “hopeful” that the House will pass the relief bill this week.

Manchin also responded to criticism lobbed at him and another moderate senator by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over their opposition to including a including a minimum wage increase in the bill, saying he wants to see a potential hike come “in more of a collaborative way.”

“The congresswoman, I respect where she’s coming from, I respect her input. We have a little different approach, we come from two different areas of the country that have different social and cultural needs, but with that you have to respect everybody,” he said. “We’re going to get that, but it’s going to sit down and be done — I hope in more of a collaborative way.”

Manchin told Tapper that he’d like to see the current federal of minimum wage of $7.25 increased to $11 and then “it should be indexed for inflation so it never becomes a political football again.”

Eight senators in the Democratic conference ultimately opposed the minimum wage amendment, along with every Republican senator.

This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.

CNN

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