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Sen. Manchin On Covid Relief Bill: 'If It's $1.9 Trillion, So Be It'

The West Virginia senator previously hedged on his support for the big bill.

Mika Brzezinski compares the support of West Virginia's Republican Governor Jim Justice for the administration's covid relief bill with the state's Democratic senator Joe Manchin, who says he believes the stimulus needs to be more targeted.

"Senator Manchin, great to have you with us. So you're the man of the hour here. What is it going to be? Is this going to be closer to $2 trillion in this package or will it end up being more targeted?" she said.

"The worst thing we can do is put a price tag on it. We need to see what the needs of the people are and how we keep people basically ready for this economy to come roaring back," Manchin said.

"If it's $1.9 trillion, so be it. If it is a little smaller than that and we find a targeted need, that's what we're going to be. But I want it to be bipartisan. If they think we're going to throw all caution to the wind and just shove it down people's throats, that's not going to happen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday on the floor, this is going to be a bipartisan process. That means Democrats and Republicans will have amendments. We have many, many opportunities to make the necessary changes and make your point. And that's what it's about. The process needs to work."

Mika told him they disagreed over a $15 an hour minimum wage. "But explain if you will," she said.

"First of all, it doesn't fit within the rule. It has to be within budgetary items. But there is a rule on that. And you have said, well, you don't agree. The bottom line is, I believe that anybody that goes into work in the morning, works a 40 hour week, a 2,000 hour year with two weeks off, basically, they should be above the minimum wage as far as the poverty guidelines. That would be $10.86. I just said don't you think it's reasonable for it to have a flat rate of $11 and index it from there."

So the good news is, Manchin sounds flexible on the numbers for the relief bill. But he did point out a $15 minimum wage would be too difficult for businesses in the rural parts of his state to absorb.

Manchin's not wrong. Going directly to $15 would have unintended effects in many states, not just his. Since states set their own eligibility guidelines for safety net programs like Section 8 housing subsidies, food stamps, Medicaid, and daycare, many workers could suddenly find themselves unable to pay full price for housing, food, daycare, and health insurance at $15 an hour.

The other thing is that the poorest states have Republican-controlled state legislatures, and they might not be all that interested in helping to make life fairer for poor people by changing the safety net's eligibility standards. Phasing the increases in over time can increase public pressure to do so without leaving people stranded without services they need.

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