A Senate Democrat on Tuesday said he backs the party’s push to pass a COVID-19 relief bill through budget reconciliation but warned he wouldn’t support a package that includes measures not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I will vote to move forward with the budget process because we must address the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis. But let me be clear—and these are words I shared with President Biden—our focus must be targeted on the COVID-19 crisis and Americans who have been most impacted by this pandemic. The President remains hopeful that we can have bipartisan support moving forward. I will only support proposals that will get us through and end the pain of this pandemic,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement.
“For the sake of the country, we must work together with laser focus to defeat the COVID-19 crisis, support our neighbors and communities who continue to suffer and get back to a more normal life as quickly as possible.”
President Joe Biden has put forth a $1.9 trillion proposal supported by most Democrats. He met on Monday with 10 Senate Republicans who hope to convince him to support their $618 billion relief plan. Republicans believe Biden’s plan is too expensive, especially coming on the heels of the $900 billion package passed and signed into law in December 2020.
Biden was scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats for a virtual lunch on Tuesday.
Democrat Senate and House leaders filed a joint budget resolution on Monday, the first step in the process to get a COVID-19 relief package passed through budget reconciliation without Republican support.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor in Washington that the body would not “dilute, dither, or delay” on fresh relief.
“The Senate must move forward today with a vote to begin debate on a budget resolution, and I’m optimistic that the motion to proceed will pass,” he said Tuesday.
Manchin’s vote is key because Democrats have a one vote majority in the Senate. Any defectors would imperil passing the package, unless some Republicans get behind it.
Manchin told The Hill that he doesn’t support the measure in the package to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Manchin said he views $11 an hour, adjusted to inflation, as reasonable for West Virginia.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Twenty-nine states have higher minimum wages.
Congress last increased the minimum wage in 2009, to its current level.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also criticized the minimum wage hike inclusion in the package, telling reporters in Washington it should be handled as a separate matter.