Now that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have had time to settle into their new roles in the White House, the VP is making the media rounds to push a proposed COVID-19 relief plan that would include another round of stimulus checks for struggling Americans.
But according to the Washington Examiner, Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, was apparently blindsided by the news that Harris provided an interview to a local news station in his state to push the proposal — and now, he’s speaking out about being snubbed.
Manchin told the Mountain State’s WSAZ that he “couldn’t believe” Harris talked with the outlet without reaching out to him. The two previously served together in the Senate before Harris’ inauguration as VP.
According to WSAZ, Harris used her time during the interview to highlight why it’s so important for Congress to pass the so-called American Rescue Plan, which would fund a number of relief measures, including $1,400 stimulus checks.
Harris was reportedly dispatched by the White House to give similar interviews in both Arizona and West Virginia in an effort to drum up support among voters in those states, ostensibly so they’d pressure their senators to back the deal.
“To your point in West Virginia, one in seven families is describing their household as being hungry, one in six can’t pay their rent, and one in four small businesses are closing permanently or have already closed, so it’s a big issue in West Virginia and across the country,” Harris said Thursday, according to WSAZ. “And that’s why the president and I are offering the American Rescue Plan.”
In addition to direct checks, the White House proposal also includes pathways for funding that would allow schools to prepare for the return of in-person learning, offer relief to small businesses, give moratoriums on evictions, and make another extension to unemployment benefits, according to National Review.
“The president and I feel very strongly that these are the moments when we are facing a crisis of unbelievable proportion [and] that the American people deserve their leaders to step up and stand up for them,” the vice president told WSAZ, in a clear attempt to dial up pressure on senators like Manchin.
After Harris’ unannounced interview with the television station, WSAZ followed up by asking Manchin for his take on her talk. “I saw it,” Manchin said, according to the Washington Examiner. “I couldn’t believe it. No one called me.
“We’re going to try to find a bipartisan way forward. I think we need to, but we need to work together,” the senator added. “That’s not a way of working together, what was done.”
At the crux of Manchin’s concern about the White House plan is the obvious cost of yet another COVID-19 relief package. Manchin’s moderate status in the party means it’s unlikely that he would sign off on the $1.9 trillion proposal without some serious cost-cutting negotiations, and Democrats’ slim majorities in both the House and Senate mean they need all the support they can get on this deal.
But if Biden and Harris are hoping to rally all edges of their caucus behind their big ideas, they sure have a funny way of showing it.