West Virginia governor urges Congress to ‘go big’ on COVID-19 relief
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, on Monday argued that fiscal concerns should be set aside as the nation struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, putting pressure on centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support a large COVID-19 relief bill.
“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 in an interview.
“We have really got to move and get people taken care of,” he said.
Justice doubled down on his statement in a follow-up interview with MSNBC in which he urged Congress to “go big.”
“I absolutely believe we need to go big,” he said, chastising lawmakers in Washington over the months-long standoff before Congress passed a compromise $900 billion relief package in December.
“I believe forevermore that it was ridiculous beyond belief to have Democrats and Republicans fighting and couldn’t pass a stimulus package for months,” he said. “It was godawful. That’s just all there is to it. You had people that were suffering that needed to pay their power bill, needed to pay their rent or their car payment.
“At this point in time in this nation, we need to go big. We need to quit counting the egg-sucking legs on the cows and count the cows and just move. And move forward and move right now,” he added.
Justice’s pointed statements put pressure on Manchin, who has been negotiating with a group of Senate Republicans on passing a smaller relief package, to support President Biden’s call to pass a package on the order of $1.9 trillion.
Vice President Harris told WSAZ, an NBC affiliate in Charleston, last week that West Virginia would benefit from Biden’s plan.
“To your point, in West Virginia, 1 in 7 families is describing their household as being hungry, 1 in 6 can’t pay their rent, and 1 in 4 small businesses are closing permanently or have already closed, so it’s a big issue in West Virginia and across the country,” Harris said. “And that’s why the president and I are offering the American Rescue Plan.”
Manchin bristled at the pressure, later telling WSAZ he couldn’t believe Harris made her statement on his home turf without giving him a heads-up.
“I saw [the interview]. I couldn’t believe it. No one called me [about it],” Manchin told 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.”
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.
“I don’t know where in hell $2,000 came from,” Manchin said earlier this month. “I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion.”