West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin walked a fine line Sunday on whether he’d support a round of stimulus checks increasing direct aid to Americans to $2,000 per person, saying he preferred more targeted relief.
"That’s not a yes or no question," Manchin said on CNN’s "State of the Union," when asked by host Jake Tapper whether he was on board with sending $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans who earn $75,000 or less.
"I am on board by helping people that need help, people that really can’t make it, people who don’t have a job, they can’t put food on their table. I am in total support of helping them," Manchin said.
"Sending checks to people that basically already have a check and aren’t going to be able spend that or are not going to spend it, usually are putting it in their savings account right now, that’s not who we are. We have done an awful lot of that, it’s time now to target where the money goes," he added.
Manchin sprang last week to the position of a vital swing vote now that Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate following twin Democratic wins in the Georgia runoffs. The chamber is now split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking any ties. That puts Manchin in a powerful position as one of the Democratic caucus’ most moderate members.
"I have seen power in Washington. I have seen people abuse power. If you think you’ve got it, usually they will end up abusing it," Manchin said. "If I’m in a position that I can make a difference by bringing this country back together and making us work in a bipartisan [way], I will use it for that."
Manchin instead called Sunday for doing something legislatively that puts people back to work, including passing a big infrastructure bill.
"If you want to spend $2 trillion, $3 trillion: Invest it in infrastructure," he said. "… There’s a lot we can do to put people back to work."
Tapper also posed a series of questions for Manchin, including whether he supported eliminating the legislative filibuster, to which Manchin said no, as well as whether he supported bills recognizing statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, to which the senator said he needed more facts before answering.
Manchin was also asked about a ban on sort forms of semiautomatic weapons.
"There has to be responsibility in gun ownership. I’m not going to eliminate people having their gun," Manchin responded. "They shouldn’t be scared to death of Democrats on their Second Amendment, taking their guns away. … So no, we’re not going to take people’s guns away, but there is things that we should not have in people’s hands."