Sen. Joe Manchin tried to defend the bipartisan compromise by saying, “We’re the only game in town” and that his group is “meeting day and night, every day and night” to come up with a relief package. But Smith pointed out just how much relief is missing:
SMITH: It’s all Washington talk. You said earlier, Senator, that a deal is very close but there is still no bill. Republicans are demanding protections from lawsuits for big corporations; Democrats demanding help for workers in the public sector and money for state and local that Republicans are blocking. Both sides say they want direct payment for disaster victims but there is not a penny in direct payments in your proposal. Why not?
Manchin argued that the bill is for people who are unemployed and “have nothing.” He called it “an emergency to get us through the first quarter.”
Smith smacked that down harder.
SMITH: Senator, I don't know who “us” is because that doesn't get money to the people. You know when a hurricane strikes in the gulf south, the government rushes to help. When fires ravage California, the government steps in. We're nine months into the biggest health crisis and resulting financial crisis in 100 years and the federal government has done nothing for the victims in 257 days. Why? Why is Washington failing the people? What's the reason?
Smith hinted that the answer is to stop trying to compromise and start making demands:
SMITH: There is no bill. Senator, with great respect, I've always enjoyed conversations with you for more than a decade but the open secret in Washington is there is no incentive to work together. You get votes by fighting with the other party and you get money from special interests.
Manchin called the compromise “a down payment." The presumption is that Joe Biden will put together another package after he takes office. “We’ve got to bridge that gap,” Manchin said. He patted himself and his so-called Gang of Eight on the back for being “out there and doing something” when none of the caucuses would.
Smith wasn’t buying that, either.
SMITH: Senator, everyone in Washington is still getting paid, these people are not. This is not a stimulus, this is emergency disaster relief for people who don't have jobs through no fault of their own and even your compromise today, which isn't yet a bill, provides no direct payments to the victims of this disaster.
SMITH: We don't even have enough masks and gowns and gloves stockpiled for hospital workers. The federal government promised we would but they failed us there too. Who do we hold accountable?
Before closing, Smith reiterated his belief that fighting gets more results than compromising. But he gave a nod of approval to Manchin for having “come up with something” before and wished him good luck.