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Joe Biden is putting pressure on moderate Democrats in the Senate to follow his lead to enact his agenda. With no margin for error at all in the Senate, the president is sending a not-so-subtle message to West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema that they better toe the line or suffer the consequences.
The pressure came from Vice President Kamala Harris who made two appearances on local TV stations — one in Arizona and one in West Virginia — to deliver the message.
Whether the Harris interviews were designed to pressure Manchin and Sinema into backing the American Rescue Plan was not immediately clear. Following the TV appearances, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked why the vice president chose to address local media in the two states.
“We want to make the case to the American people across the country. … This is a way to do just that,” Psaki said. She added that Harris would likely do more regional interviews in other states.
In her TV remarks, Harris explained the “urgency” of the $1.9 trillion plan that would give out an additional $1,400 in stimulus checks to Americans, expand unemployment insurance, and increase the child tax credit.
It’s significant that Harris specifically mentioned the stimulus checks to individuals. Manchin has stated he believes the checks should only go to those in need. This directly contradicts the president’s wishes and has Manchin siding with Republicans who have proposed limiting the checks to those making less than $75,000.
But Manchin has a tough sell with voters on his hands when it comes to Biden’s planned destruction of the coal industry. Harris didn’t exactly tell those thousands of miners in West Virginia to “learn to code,” but she came close.
She also said the administration wanted to work to help coal miners in West Virginia transfer their job skills.
“All of those skilled workers who are in the coal industry and transferring those skills to what we need to do in terms of dealing with reclaiming abandoned land mines,” she told WSAZ.
“What we need to do around plugging leaks from oil and gas wells; and, transferring those important skills to the work that has yet to be done that needs to get done.”
Biden isn’t going to help anyone out when it comes to fossil fuels. But he’s showing that he can go over Manchin’s head and appeal directly to West Virginia voters. Not that he has a prayer of winning the state, but he can certainly make trouble for Manchin if the senator doesn’t play ball on the new president’s most important proposal.