CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on changes to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which the chamber will likely pass.
House members on Tuesday voted 219-210 to proceed with the legislation. Wednesday’s vote is the final hurdle in sending the measure to President Joe Biden and giving the administration its first legislative victory.
The package includes providing $1,400 relief payments to most Americans, funding for coronavirus response and vaccination efforts, child tax credits and an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits through Sept. 6.
West Virginia will also receive $1.3 billion, while local governments will get $677 million for coronavirus expenses and infrastructure investments. According to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, West Virginia has yet to spend more than $660 million in federal CARES Act money.
No Republicans have voted for the measure so far; West Virginia’s House delegates opposed the package in a Feb. 27 vote, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sided with Republican colleagues Saturday in voting against the bill.
“It doesn’t deviate much from what was passed before,” Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said on Tuesday’s “MetroNews Talkline.”
“We’ve just got to get back to that pre-COVID economy that we were having, and I don’t think anything in this bill is going to provide for that.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., drew attention Friday after opposing an amendment on unemployment benefits; Democratic leaders wanted to extend the $300 enhancement until Oct. 4 while providing $10,200 in unemployment tax benefits. Manchin, leaders and the White House agreed to continue benefits until Sept. 6 with a $150,000 cap on tax breaks, yet discussions halted the Senate’s work for nearly 12 hours.
“My preference was that it would have ended in July because I’ve never seen us not come back and meet the needs of West Virginians or anybody else in the country if the pandemic was still going on and businesses were closed,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We should be open back up by June or July.”
Manchin has also faced criticism back home; Gov. Jim Justice attacked Manchin for a provision in the bill saying states cannot use the money to offset net tax revenue.
“What was written in the law was written in there primarily by Joe Manchin,” the governor said during Monday’s coronavirus briefing. “Joe Manchin is supposed to be your representative, West Virginia, and you know what Joe Manchin is doing? He’s still trying to hit at me.”
Justice added, without evidence, Manchin inserted the provision because of the senator’s opposition to Justice’s proposal of eliminating the state income tax.
“Are you really kidding me? West Virginians, we don’t you to have more money in your pocket?” the governor said.
Manchin rejected Justice’s claim, saying the provision was part of other coronavirus relief bills.
“We have differences on that. I think it’s very ill-advised, especially in a pandemic,” Manchin said of the income tax proposal.
The senator noted he did help write the amendment regarding funds for municipal governments.
“Cities and municipalities have the same restrictions. They can’t use this to backfill budget holes or do that kind of stuff,” he said. “What they can do, once they’ve taken care of all their costs of COVID expenses, they can now use the remainder on infrastructure.”
The Senate last week considered multiple amendments during a lengthy “vote-a-rama;” senators rejected various proposals, including amendments related to a $15 an hour minimum wage, a review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and transgender students participating in women’s sports.