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Key Democratic senator shoots down $2,000 stimulus checks proposal

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he does not support boosting stimulus payments to $2,000 and instead wants to focus on coronavirus vaccinations.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia voiced firm opposition on Friday to boosting stimulus payments to $2,000.

“Absolutely not. No," Manchin said in an interview with the Washington Post when asked about supporting a new round of checks. "Getting people vaccinated, that’s job No. 1."

Manchin said he has a "difference of opinion" with soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his promise to move quickly on funding those checks. 

In addition to Schumer, President-elect Joe Biden is pushing for $2,000 payments as part of a new economic relief package, which is also expected to push vaccine distribution. 

“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 said to the Washington Post

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Wednesday Jan 29, 2020 file photo, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., walks to the Senate chamber after a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

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Opposition from Manchin comes as Democrats prepare to take majority control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in six years. 

With Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock beating out their Republican opponents in Georgia's runoff elections, the Senate will have a 50-50 split but Democrats hold the majority because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acts as the tie breaker. Ossoff and Warnock will be sworn in once Georgia certifies the election.  

In a statement, a spokesperson for Manchin suggested to The Hill that the senator would be open to considering larger relief packages once the COVID-19 vaccine has been distributed. 

Manchin also tweeted that "If the next round of stimulus checks goes out they should be targeted to those who need it."  

Schumer could need every Democratic vote if he pushes to use special Senate rules allowing for a simple majority to pass legislation, instead of the 60 vote threshold typically required. If he loses even a single Democrat in that situation, they would need to convince Republicans to vote for the proposal. 

While some Republicans publicly voiced support for $2,000 checks alongside President Trump, it's unclear whether they will continue to support the plan once Biden takes office.

The most recent COVID-19 relief bill delivered individual Americans making $75,000 or less $600 in stimulus money. President Donald Trump initially refused to sign the bill for failing to provide $2,000, but he eventually signed the package into law. 

The House was able to pass a measure upping checks to $2,000 before the new year, but Senate Republicans blocked the measure from being voted on. 

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