White House says it's been in touch with Manchin

The White House has "been in touch" with Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer steps on the gas to move Biden agenda Overnight Health Care — Biden touts drug price push Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-W.Va.) about its economic relief proposal, press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiSchumer steps on the gas to move Biden agenda Judge blocks Spicer, Vought bid to return to Naval Academy board Romney praises Biden's boycott of Beijing Olympics MORE said Monday, after the moderate senator expressed surprise at Vice President Harris's recent media appearances in his home state seeking to boost support for the package.

"We’ve been in touch with Sen. Manchin as we have been for many weeks and will continue to be moving forward," Psaki said when asked if the White House had reached out to clear the air with the West Virginia senator.

Psaki would not say whether President Biden had personally reached out to Manchin, but said the senator is "an important partner as we look to move forward on this package and of course all of the president’s agenda."

ADVERTISEMENT

Harris last week gave interviews to local West Virginia media outlets to make the case for the White House's coronavirus relief proposal. The vice president outlined how the package would benefit West Virginians who are struggling economically amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The targeted media appeared designed to increase pressure on Manchin, who is a key swing vote in the Senate, to back the Biden administration's proposal.

Manchin has raised concerns about the fiscal impact of sending out $1,400 checks to individuals across the country, which when combined with a bill that passed in December would increase the total size of the rebate to $2,000.

Harris's comments caught Manchin by surprise, however. 

"I saw [the interview]. I couldn’t believe it. No one called me [about it],” Manchin told NBC affiliate WSAZ. "We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward, but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together."

The White House needs to secure Manchin's vote to be able to pass its relief package via budget reconciliation if it's unable to win over any Republican senators.

Psaki appeared to lean on Manchin again during remarks at Monday's briefing when she referenced comments from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), who told CNN and MSNBC in interviews earlier in the day that he supported Congress being ambitious with relief.

“We need to understand that trying to be, per se, fiscally responsible at this point in time, with what we’ve got going on in this country — if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?” Justice told CNN.