'We can do this': Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on pandemic relief negotiations

Manchin, a key player in the talks, appeared on ABC's "The View" Monday.

December 7, 2020, 12:38 PM

The small group of senators working on a pandemic relief proposal is making meaningful progress on a bipartisan compromise, a key member, Sen. Joe. Manchin of West Virginia, said Monday.

"We can do this," Manchin told the hosts of ABC's "The View" Monday, calling the compromise proposal "just right."

Manchin is one of eight senators advancing the effort in hopes of getting something passed before Congress leaves town for the holiday break.

Senators spent the weekend working on the language of the bipartisan framework, which has not yet been introduced and is expected sometime this week.

Manchin emphasized that the bill is meant as an emergency provision, and will likely not satisfy what either party wants.

"This is an emergency bill. Please remember that," Manchin said. "We're going to make sure that the basic needs of life, food, shelter, things that people have nothing to look forward to after December when this all is eliminated."

PHOTO: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia speaks on "The View", Dec. 7, 2020.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia speaks on "The View", Dec. 7, 2020.

In a letter to Congress Monday, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed the "desperately needed" bipartisan package.

"Failure to enact a meaningful pandemic package along the lines recently outlined by members of both parties risks a double-dip recession that will permanently shutter small businesses across the nation and leave millions of Americans with no means to support themselves and their families," Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley wrote.

Little time remains before the end of the year to get a measure passed. President-elect Joe Biden is pressuring Congress -- including his fellow Democrats -- to pass at least some additional relief before he takes office.

It is possible that some COVID-19 relief provisions are attached to a government funding bill that must pass by Friday to avert a government shutdown, unless Congress passes an extension.

The bipartisan group, backed by House members in the self-described Problem Solvers Caucus, put forward a proposal early last week that would provide $908 billion in emergency aid.

The framework includes $160 billion in state and local aid, $180 billion for additional unemployment funds, and $288 billion for the small business loan program. It also includes liability protections for hospitals, schools and other institutions, something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted on from the onset of negotiations.

Overall, the proposal targets certain protections granted by the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed in March that will expire by the end of the year without congressional action.

"Whether it be food assistance, whether it would be shelter, whether it would be health care, whether the necessities that people have, child care that's needed to try to get our lives back — all the things were going to be eliminated," Manchin said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "And we said, 'That can't be done. We cannot allow this to happen."

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced their support for the group's proposal as a jumping off point for negotiations, but although McConnell spoke with Pelosi and the bipartisan group Thursday, he's yet to announce his position.

McConnell put forward a separate $400 billion proposal last week.

Congress has been locked in a stalemate on a path forward on virus relief for months, with Democrats advocating for a robust bill worth over $2 trillion dollars while Republicans sought a more targeted, less expensive solution.

While the bipartisan proposal advanced by Manchin and others seeks to find common ground between the two parties, serious sticking points remain.

Manchin has found himself at the center of the boiling tension between the progressive and conservative wings of the Democratic party, in recent weeks entering a quarrel with progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter.

Following the November election, Manchin voice his disapproval of the progressive movement to defund the police, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to tweet a photo in which she appears to be glaring at the back of Manchin's head.

Her tweet prompted a rebuke from Manchin who told the New York Times "I don’t know the young lady — I really don’t. I never met her. I’m understanding she’s not that active with her bills or in committee. She’s more active on Twitter than anything else."

Ocasio-Cortez fired back: "I find it amusing when politicians try to diminish the seriousness of our policy work, movement organizing & grassroots fundraising to “she just tweets,” as though “serious” politics is only done by begging corporate CEOs for money through wax-sealed envelopes delivered by raven."

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