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President Joe Biden pressured Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to sign off on his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus legislation earlier this year after the West Virginia moderate signaled his opposition to it.
According to a new book by Washington Post vets Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Biden called Manchin on March 5 to press him into supporting the spending bill, which was on the eve of the Senate’s vote, asking him to join the rest of his fellow Democrats in the evenly-divided upper chamber.
“If you don’t come along, you’re really f**king me,” the president allegedly told Manchin, according to details of the book, “Peril,” published by The Washington Post.
Manchin had expressed a reluctance to sign on to the legislation because of its high cost after Congress had already passed trillions in coronavirus relief in previous sessions.
“On the day of the alleged phone call, Manchin compromised with his fellow Senate Democrats over a disagreement involving an unemployment benefits proposal included in the package,” the Daily Caller reported.
“Democrats supported funding $400 of weekly unemployment benefits, while the West Virginia senator supported a proposal offered by Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, that would have only included $300 benefits through July 18,” the outlet continued.
Manchin at the time had said that overly generous federal unemployment benefits on top of what states were already paying during the pandemic would make an economic and jobs recovery much harder.
“The measure ultimately cleared the Senate through an elaborate sequencing of amendments designed to satisfy the centrist Democrat,” the Post reported. The president’s frustration with Manchin is matched only by his debt to House Majority Whip Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, whose endorsement before that state’s primary propelled Biden to the nomination and gave rise to promises about how he would govern.”
The exchange is important because it may foreshadow what is to come: The House has already passed a gargantuan $3 trillion spending measure and it is now up to $3.5 trillion and sitting on Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s docket. But Manchin has already told the New York Democrat he’s not on board with spending trillions more.
Manchin “said Sunday that he will not vote in favor of his party’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, which is a central part of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and needs the support of all 50 Democratic senators to pass,” Fox Business Network reported, adding:
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Manchin was asked by anchor Dana Bash to respond to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said Democrats were moving “full speed ahead” on the package for which Manchin previously called for a “pause.” Manchin, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said his main issue with the package is its hefty price tag.
“He will not have my vote on 3.5 and Chuck knows that,” he said, adding that it should be more like $1.5 trillion. “It’s not going to be three and a half I can assure you.”
“They have to do what they have to do,” he said. “And if they play politics with the needs of America, I can tell you America will recoil.”
He went on to predict that there is “no way” that the massive reconciliation bill would pass by the Sept. 27 deadline, while pushing back on his colleague Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said on Twitter, “No infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.”
“I just respectfully disagree with Bernie,” Manchin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I’ve never seen this in legislation. I never thought the purposes of the progress we make in legislation was basically to hold one hostage over the other.”
Under reconciliation, the Senate’s 50 Republicans can’t filibuster the legislation, but that means all 50 of the chamber’s Democrats must support it in order for Vice President Kamala Harris to be the tie-breaker.