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Senators from W.Va. at center of COVID-19 relief debate

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 7:27 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - President Joe Biden is pushing for Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, and West Virginia’s two U.S. senators are at the center of the debate.

On Monday night, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R - W.Va.) was one of 10 senators to meet with Biden in the Oval Office to discuss the relief package. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats decided to move forward with Biden’s proposal after gaining the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D - W.Va.) as the critical 50th vote.

“When you have a good bipartisan input, you can discuss and debate, that’s when you get a good program,” Manchin said about his decision to change course and support the bill. “We are committed and everyone is committed that this reconciliation will be done in a open and bipartisan way.”

Manchin said the proposal still needs work and the Democrats are committed to working with Republicans throughout the bill amendment process. He is hopeful the bill will provide much needed assistance, including $1,400 stimulus checks, to West Virginians.

“Giving the minority, giving everyone a chance to improve the program to make sure the needs of our country, this horrible pandemic, the vaccines that are needed, protecting our children and families,” Manchin said. “(The virus) is coming back with a flurry, so we have got to make sure the resources are there so the economy doesn’t collapse and families don’t collapse.”

Capito doubts the negotiation process will be bipartisan and expects it to take at least a month to pass the bill through reconciliation, which allows each amendment of the bill to be voted on separately and prevents a filibuster. She was hopeful leaving the White House on Monday night, but saw the president’s aides quickly walk back his push for compromise.

“I think the urgency is upon us now rather than wait if you do the reconciliation,” Capito said. “If the president comes back at us now with a counter proposal, that will mean he heard our voices saying we want to do this quickly. But, the direction that the president and Senator Schumer it will be strictly partisan, and it will take a longer time.”

Capito said Republicans stressed the need for a targeted approach to the relief package during their meeting, and she is hopeful the president is willing to at least narrow the focus of spending on stimulus checks and funding to state and local governments.

“If we go with a more targeted approach where we can get bipartisan ideas in, we can do this a lot quicker, because we have done five of them in the past,” Capito said. “I think it is good to get the dialogue going. Certainly, any time you get to be in the Oval Office and spend two hours with any president it’s not just rewarding, but I think it’s good to hear ideas on every side.”

President Biden mentioned West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R- W.Va.) during the White House meeting, Capito said, after Justice went on multiple national television shows on Monday and called for a very large stimulus package to be passed as soon as possible.

“I am absolutely for helping our people,” Justice said during his Monday news conference. “If we can get our people that are out there hurting some extra bucks right now, the way things are going, struggling paying their power bills or rent checks or whatever that are due, they are just agonizing over like crazy. All of the worries they are having to contend with and businesses and restaurants and everything that are just folding all over the place, and this thing has been a cannonball to everybody, to everybody, but this nation needs a jump start.”

Capito worked to walk back the governor’s comments and said any state wants as much funding and support as possible from the federal government.

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