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Sen. Manchin responds to Biden’s address

CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., praised President Joe Biden Friday for restoring some “calmness” during his first joint address to Congress Wednesday, but said Biden’s proposals need to be fully vetted through the legislative process.

Manchin spoke with the West Virginia press Friday morning from his office on Capitol Hill. The senior West Virginia senator was among the 200 members of Congress out of 535 permitted to attend Biden’s address due to COVID-19 social distance regulations.

“It was a good speech. I thought it was a well-delivered speech,” Manchin said. “It hit on so many topics and so many issues, but basically it had some calmness to it and some normality to it. And I think that’s what the American public wants.”

Biden laid out several ambitious proposals Wednesday night, including encouraging Congress to help him pass his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan for infrastructure improvements, proposals to combat climate change, electric vehicle incentives and infrastructure, workforce development, tax breaks for American manufacturing, and great access to home healthcare.

On top of that, Biden proposed a new $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. The plan would create universal pre-Kindergarten, pay for two years of community and technical college education, create 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, expand direct payments for families with children for households earning less than $125,000 per year.

While Biden and Senate Democratic leadership will try to push some of the proposals in the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan using the reconciliation process, a budget process in the Senate that allows some bills to pass with a simple majority, many of the proposals will still require 60 votes to move forward, requiring buy-in from Republicans. Manchin wants to see these proposals go through the regular committee process.

“I think the President said more than once that If there’s things you don’t like, then try to work on it, try to change it and vote it up or down,” Manchin said. “I took that as a real welcome call.”

“Let’s make this place work and let’s start having some amendments,” Manchin continued. “Let’s let it work through the committees…it comes out of committee, and it goes to the floor, and those people who aren’t on the committee…everybody has a chance on the floor to make amendments.”

Manchin has been critical of the price tag for Biden’s proposals, which when combined with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief bill passed in March would come to more than $6 trillion of new spending proposed by Biden. Manchin supports rolling back some Trump administration tax cuts to pay for an infrastructure plan, and he has been complimentary of a more targeted infrastructure plan proposed by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., with a smaller price tag of $568 billion paid for with unspent COVID-19 relief dollars and user fees.

Also Friday, Manchin praised the confirmation of Gayle Manchin, his wife, who is a former state Board of Education president and former cabinet official for Gov. Jim Justice, as the new co-chair of the Appalachian Region Commission. The Senate Thursday unanimously confirmed Mrs. Manchin.

“She knows mostly all the senators and has worked with them before,” Manchin said. “They know her extensive background and education, working with Appalachia with the children and families of Appalachia. She is well qualified. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that all my Democrat and Republican colleagues felt that she was worthy.”

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