Will This Democratic Senator Block $2,000 Stimulus Checks?

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You may not be able to count on your $2,000 check just yet.

President-elect Joe Biden and many leading Democrats have campaigned heavily on providing more coronavirus stimulus relief to the American public.

And when Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate after their candidates won two runoff elections in Georgia, the odds seemed high that more stimulus money would soon be on the way to Americans' bank accounts. This is especially true as leading figures on the left have pledged support for a plan to provide $2,000 stimulus checks.

On Friday, however, one Democratic senator indicated his opposition to a plan to provide these checks. If he holds firm on this position, it's very possible that the effort to send out large direct payments may be over before it begins.

Democratic senator says no to $2,000 stimulus checks

Those hoping for a $2,000 check shouldn't count on that cash just yet, as Joe Manchin (D- W.VA) unequivocally made clear on Friday that he wasn't on board with distributing this money.

In response to a query from The Washington Post about a plan to provide these large direct payments, Manchin said "Absolutely not. No. Getting people vaccinated, that’s job No. 1.” He went on to question sending $2,000 checks as a form of stimulus aid, commenting "How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can’t tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that’s already got a check."

Manchin appeared to temper these remarks slightly in a follow-up interview suggesting he might be willing to support another check if it was targeted more narrowly to those in direct need. But his earlier comments suggested extreme skepticism as the senator said "I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from. I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion."

It's not a huge surprise that Manchin has broken with those in his party on this issue, as the West Virginia senator is more moderate than many of his colleagues in both the House and the Senate. But it could pose a big problem for the incoming administration, because losing his vote could doom any legislation Biden puts forth.

Can Democrats get the votes for another stimulus package?

With the Democrats winning the recent Georgia runoff races, the Senate will be split evenly with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Once Biden takes office, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will break any ties. This gives the left a bare majority.

But because of the Senate filibuster, a coronavirus relief bill would need to get 60 votes in the Senate to advance. To avoid this, Democrats have discussed using a procedure called reconciliation to pass another stimulus package -- but they would still need 51 votes to make that happen. So if Manchin is unwilling to vote for a relief bill authorizing $2,000 checks, at least one Republican would have to do so for it to pass via reconciliation.

Unless lawmakers on the right break ranks and vote with the left, Biden's stimulus plan can't afford to lose support from Democrats. While some on the right have said they'd be in favor of making these large direct payments, it's almost certain they would object to other provisions of a relief bill Biden is likely to propose -- such as expanded unemployment benefits and financial relief for states. As a result, getting votes from the Republicans to force a large-scale stimulus plan through reconciliation is probably not in the cards.

Of course, it's possible Manchin's opinion could change when legislation is actually introduced. Still, his opposition to $2,000 checks means the likelihood of a quick payment being delivered to Americans after Biden takes office has just declined substantially.

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