Gov. Jim Justice said Monday he supports President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Recovery Plan over a scaled-back $618 billion Republican alternative.
“I don’t think that America can go wrong being too high,” Justice said during Monday’s West Virginia COVID-19 briefing. “I think, today, America’s got to go to the higher number.”
Earlier Monday, Justice made similar comments in interviews on cable news networks CNN and MSNBC.
“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?” the governor told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
During his briefing Monday, Justice used a footwear analogy, saying a shoe that is a little too big is still wearable, while a shoe that’s too small is useless.
“Our nation needs to step up in a bigger way, and move forward, and that’s all there is to it,” Justice said in support of Biden’s stimulus package.
Justice said the United States cannot go through another partisan impasse that delayed passage of a second pandemic stimulus package totaling $900 billion through the summer and fall, until Dec. 21.
Justice’s stand seemingly puts him at odds with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., one of 10 Republican senators who were to meet Monday with Biden at the White House to make a pitch for the GOP counteroffer, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also has called for scaling back the Biden plan, including targeting proposed $1,400 stimulus payments based on income.
Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris met with editors and executives of the Gazette-Mail and The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, to advocate for passage of the $1.9 trillion plan.
“If we don’t pass this bill, it is our sincere belief that more people will die who should not, more people will lose their jobs who should not, and more children will miss critical days in class,” Harris said.
Justice said he had not studied details of either proposal and doesn’t want see money used to “bail out” city and state pension plans. He said $600 billion is insufficient to help “people in this country who were hurting, and are still hurting badly.”
Also during Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:
- Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University and the state’s COVID-19 czar, said he and other medical professionals are “very surprised” that a feared post-Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday surge of COVID-19 cases did not occur, either in West Virginia or most of the country.
“I would have bet you money that we would have a terrible surge right now, but in fact, we don’t,” Marsh said. “We would have guessed we would have been very full, and perhaps surging in hospitalizations right now.”
Instead, there were 438 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in West Virginia on Monday, down 46% from a peak of 818 hospitalizations on Jan. 5.
However, Marsh said, the discovery of three new, more infectious variations of the coronavirus detected in parts of the United States “tells us the clock is ticking for us to very aggressively push vaccinations.”
- James Hoyer, state interagency task force director, said officials have no estimates of how many West Virginians 65 or older are choosing not to be vaccinated. He noted that more than 80% of nursing home and assisted-living center residents and 60% of staff members volunteered for vaccinations, and many of those who were not vaccinated in the first round have requested vaccinations since then.
- Justice gave out what he said is the final score for Sunday’s Super Bowl, in hopes of discouraging people from getting together for Super Bowl parties.
“You really, really don’t need to be concerned with the Super Bowl,” Justice said after giving out his spoiler final score: Tampa Bay 31, Kansas City 20.