Sen. Joe Manchin defends vote to lower unemployment benefits in new stimulus bill

Biden's original stimulus proposal offered $400 in additional weekly unemployment benefits through August

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Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has defended his vote which resulted in reduced unemployment benefits in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill. 

Manchin appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, during which host Martha Raddatz noted that he “brought the Senate to a standstill for 10 hours on Friday, threatened to side with Republicans and did not budge until a call from the president and significant concessions were made.”

An earlier report from theGrio noted that the Senate package was delayed repeatedly as Democrats made eleventh-hour changes aimed at balancing demands by their competing moderate and progressive factions. As reported by Newsweek, Biden’s original stimulus proposal offered $400 in additional weekly unemployment benefits through August. Manchin pushed to lower the amount to $300 and shorten the payout by one month.

Read More: Biden, Dems prevail as Senate OKs $1.9 trillion virus relief bill

“I didn’t do anything intentionally whatsoever, I did everything I could to bring us together so we have more support,” Manchin said on ABC News’ This Week. “I did everything I could to bring us together so we’d have more support, and the public would get the needed help, as needed,” he added. “I always try to work with my Democrat colleagues, my caucus, and my Republican friends.”

The Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory which they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums.

After laboring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature. 

The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance.

“We have so many different ways that we’re helping the public with this piece of legislation,” Manchin told Raddatz. “It’s not that I don’t think — I think that basically what would have happened, going from $300 to $400, there’s going to be a glitch for people who are going to go without employment checks for a while. $300 is kept systematically and kept a smooth transition through there,” he explained.

Read More: Fraud overwhelms pandemic-related unemployment programs

“Also, we did things with child tax credit that we’ve never done before, which I’m so proud because we’re going to help families with children, lift children out of poverty. Also, Martha, this was a targeted piece of legislation. It was because people need the help and we help every scenario,” Manchin continued.

“Also, we targeted our cities, our counties, our municipalities, so there are going to be the first time having money that they’re all able to use and control their own destiny with infrastructure. They can fix waterlines now, sewer lines, they can get Internet,” he said.

“We’ve done so much and we’ve extended this,” Manchin said of the bill. “All the changes that we made that were basically brought into this process came by working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues together.”

The COVID-19 stimulus bill will now be sent back to the House for approval before Biden signs off on it. The process is expected to happen before the current unemployment benefits expire on March 14. 

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