Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday defended holding up debate for hours on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill over his opposition to a $15 minimum wage and certain unemployment benefits — saying the negotiations led to a more targeted stimulus package.
The moderate Democrat from red-state West Virginia said members of his caucus and Republicans worked together to “make significant changes.”
“We targeted where help is needed. We were able to target, basically the people that need help, the children that need help, the schools that need help, the people on the front line, all of America,” Manchin told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“That’s what we were able to do and a lot of that was by talking with my colleagues and negotiating back and forth, and I was able to channel that through I think, and hopefully make a bill is a much more encompassing deal,” added Manchin, whose vote was crucial in a 50-50 divided Senate to pass the legislation.
He supported cutting a weekly federal supplement in unemployment to $300 from $400 and came out against raising the federal minimum wage to $15, suggesting it be set at $11.
After negotiations, the expanded benefits were dropped to $300 and the minimum wage provision was not included.
But the supplement, which had been set in the bill to expire in July, was extended to September.
Asked about criticism from progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who argued that Manchin was holding back much-needed financial help for working Americans with his opposition, the Mountain State lawmaker said Congress will eventually get to $15.
He argued the minimum wage proposal never belonged in the stimulus bill because of Senate rules.
“They made a big issue about this, and I understand everyone has the right. I respect where she’s coming from, I respect her input. We have a little different approach. We come from two different areas of the country that have different social and cultural needs,” he said.
Manchin said he believes members of Congress will collaborate on a minimum wage bill, saying “there’s not one senator out of 100 who does not want to raise the minimum wage.”
He said he backs an $11 minimum wage that is indexed to inflation “so it never becomes a political football game.”
“It should be the respect of the dignity of work, always being about the minimum wage of what the guidelines for poverty is, and being able to lift yourself way far above that, by your skill sets and your determination,” he said.
The Senate passed Biden’s stimulus package on Saturday on a party-line vote.