About two weeks ago, West Virginia found itself in the midst of a brief political squall as the Biden administration put out its $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
As the plan was released, Vice President Kamala Harris did interviews with the Gazette-Mail editorial board and WSAZ, going over the plan and why she thought it is crucial to get it passed. We can’t speak for WSAZ, but, while we were certainly flattered, we understood we were being lobbied to announce support for the plan because of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin is a critical vote in a Senate comprised of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Harris as the tie-breaker.
The ultimate centrist, Manchin has twice publicly considered returning to West Virginia to run for governor, citing the polarized and poisonous atmosphere in Washington, D.C., and the rusted gears of government as sources of discontent.
Now, however, he’s a key instead of a cog. It is clear just how much he relishes being back in business after he expressed some frustration with Harris going to news outlets in West Virginia without running it by him, first.
Despite that little dust-up, Manchin ended up voting with his party to pass the legislation, which, as expected, got through on Harris’ tie-breaker, and is now being fast-tracked in the House.
West Virginia probably won’t get the same royal treatment from the Biden administration this time.
Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., and Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., were two of the House members who objected to certifying the Electoral College results after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, during which five people died and some trespassers reportedly were looking to hang Vice President Mike Pence, along with allegedly seeking to kidnap and even assassinate members of Congress.
Miller and Mooney are clear “no” votes on the relief bill, regardless of the legislation’s merits or amendments that might make it more suitable for West Virginia. Don’t forget that Mooney voted against a relief package at the beginning of the pandemic, when President Donald Trump was in office.
The state’s third House member, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is more of a wildcard. Last week, he and Rep. Lisa Blunt, D-Del., introduced a bill to provide $1,400 stimulus checks for people who make less than $75,000 a year and households that make less than $150,000 of combined income. This might come up as an amendment to President Joe Biden’s proposal, which gives the $1,400 checks for each adult in a household earning less than $300,000.
But it’s unlikely that McKinley will be vital to negotiations on the plan. Simply put, the Democrats have the votes to pass Biden’s proposal without any bipartisan participation. Biden has made an effort to meet and speak with Republican legislators, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., on alternative proposals or amended plans. But, while bipartisanship would be nice, it’s not necessary, and it is clear that the new administration sees this massive bill as something it needs to do quickly.
There are plenty of things in the legislation that will greatly benefit West Virginians, but there are other measures — such as a mandated $15 minimum wage — which sound good but will be challenging, at best, from a practical standpoint in the Mountain State.
Mooney and Miller gave up their relevance to the discussion with their behavior after the election. McKinley likely will be sidelined, as well. For now, they’re cogs.