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Manchin Defends COVID Relief Bill: Republicans Had ‘Tremendous Amount of Input’

Sen. Joe Manchin in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021 (Greg Nash/Reuters)

Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) on Sunday defended the COVID-19 relief bill that passed the Senate with no Republican support on Saturday, saying the measure does not spell the end of bipartisanship as Republicans “had a tremendous amount of input.”

The moderate Democrat’s comments came during an appearance on ABC’s This Week in response to a question from co-anchor Martha Raddatz about whether bipartisanship seems “like a false hope” after “Biden did not get a single Republican vote for a relief package in the middle of a pandemic.”

“Not at all,” Manchin responded. “The first group of people that President Biden brought to the White House was ten of my friends and colleagues, ten Republicans to see what their idea was.”

He added that the group of GOP lawmakers “came out with a proposal” but Biden “thought we needed to do a lot more.”

“That is his prerogative and I support him with that but with that, we had an awful lot of input from Republican friends all through this process,” he said. “A lot of the changes that we made that were basically brought into this process came by working with my Republican and Democrat colleagues together.”

“They had a tremendous amount of input, they just couldn’t get there at the end,” he said.

In January, ten Republicans, including Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Rob Portman (Ohio) proposed their own framework for  COVID-19 relief package and called on Biden to work alongside them in drafting the legislation.

The group had proposed a smaller, more targeted $600 billion relief bill in comparison to Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion proposal that passed the Senate with a simple majority vote on Saturday after Democrats elected to use budget reconciliation to push the bill through without Republican support.

At that time, Portman noted that any final plan the Republicans would agree to would be “less than $1.9 [trillion] because much of what the administration has laid out has nothing to do with COVID-19.”

The bill that ultimately passed the Senate includes $130 billion in funds for K-12 schools, intended to help districts reduce class sizes to accommodate social distancing, improve ventilation systems, and make other changes. One measure introduced by Senator Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) requires schools that receive funding to provide reopening plans within 30 days. However, the relief bill does not mandate that schools reopen for in-person learning.

It also contains $1,400 checks for Americans making less than $75,000 a year, while married couples making $150,000 or less will receive two checks. Payments are phased out for individuals making $80,000 and married couples making $160,000.

Federal unemployment benefits will continue at $300 per week until September 6 under the legislation — the result of a compromise after Manchin objected to a $400 per week boost until October that House Democrats wanted.

The bill also allocates $350 billion for state and local governments, in measures Republicans have criticized as “blue-state bailouts.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) criticized the bill and its passage. “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” McConnell said.

The legislation will now return to the House, which must approve the Senate’s version of the bill before sending it to President Biden’s desk.

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