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With time running out, an economic relief deal eludes lawmakers

As we mark 300,000 deaths from COVID, a deal to provide economic relief still eludes lawmakers. Time is running out, with benefits from CARES Act set to expire the day after Christmas. A bipartisan group offered two proposals Monday afternoon to try and break the gridlock. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is one of the key architects of the effort. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we mark 300,000 deaths from COVID, a deal to provide economic relief still eludes lawmakers. Time is time is running out, as benefits from the CARES Act expire the day after Christmas.

    A bipartisan group has now offered two proposals this afternoon to try to break the gridlock.

    West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is one of the key architects, and he joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    Senator Manchin, thank you very much for joining us again.

    Tell us why your proposal — thank you — why your proposal is now broken up into two separate bills.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.:

    Well, it's not just mine.

    This has been a group of people that have started together in a bipartisan way. It started after the election on November the 4th. We made phone calls back and forth. Those of us who have always worked together said, we have got to do something.

    Talked to Susan, talked to Lisa, talked to all my friends, Mitt, all my Democratic friends. We had a dinner at Lisa's house, the eight of us there, the Gang of Eight. And it grew exponentially.

    We now have a unanimous group of people that have agreed on $748 billion that takes care of all of the emergency needs that we have that will expire at the end of December, Judy, so people will not go without unemployment checks. It's $300 a week for 16 weeks. They will not go without food assistance. We put over $13 billion, and even helping, basically, food banks and everyone else who is feeding people that they never fed before because of hard times.

    We're taking care of health care. We're taking care of basically the needs that people have as a lifeline. All of the emergencies are taken care of in this bill, unanimous Democrat and Republican. There's no reason why this wouldn't be passed immediately if they put it on the floor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    And the only thing I can tell everybody, help is on the way. We're not leaving. We will not go home for Christmas. We will not leave this place until that bill is passed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And do you have reason to believe that you're going to get the support of the leadership and the majority of both political parties behind what you're putting forward?

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    Well, there's no reason why not.

    We have been working and growing this group of Democrats and Republicans, from Dick Durbin to Rob Portman, people well-respected within their political caucuses, if you will, Democrat and Republican. We have gotten people all in between.

    And this is the only game in town. There's nobody else has done what we have done and stuck with it. Nobody thought we would have a bill. We have a bill of $748 billion, close to 600 pages, we have put together and presented it tonight. It'll be on the Internet. You can see it. You can look at every piece of it.

    It's not perfect. I'm sure that people are going to say, well, there's things you left out.

    I remind you, this is an emergency see COVID relief bill, only until April 1.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    Joe Biden comes in as our president in January. He can evaluate the economy what's — what we need to be doing, and present more if needed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    This gets us through the…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Senator…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    … worst, difficult, challenging time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Excuse me, Senator.

    I listened to your news conference with the other Republicans and Democrats who were on board with you on this compromise, which raises the question, where — again, where is the leadership and the rest of these two political parties?

    As we know, for the Democrats, one of the main sticking points has been aid for state and local governments. That money appears to be in a second proposal, as well as so-called liability protection for businesses, hospitals and others.

    My question on that is, why isn't there agreement there? And is that still going to hold up agreement on this, what you put forward, what we just discussed?

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    That should not hold agreement up on this.

    We would love to have one bill. We have agreed on 4908 billion, $160 billion for state and local need. There's an awful lot of states. And there's a lot of people, basically, first responders, whether it be policemen, firemen, whatever, that we — essential services — that we need in every state that are basically reducing their work force because of a lack of revenue. That needs to be attended to.

    The other is liability. My Republican friends believe very strongly that businesses shouldn't be able to sue out of business — be sued out of business.

    We, as Democrats, believe that too. Where they break down in differences is how — your ability to be able to get into court, Judy. How do you protect the workplace? How do you protect the worker?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And do you…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    We have narrowed it down to just a period of time.

    It's for two years, one year prior, starting in December 9, 2019, and then ends in the end of 2021. So, it's very…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it's my understand — I'm sorry to interrupt again.

    But it's my understanding that you at this point are the only Democrats supporting what the Republicans want in terms of liability protection.

    But what we're hearing, though, from Democrats, Senator, is that they're really worried about people who work in these high-vulnerability jobs, like at meatpacking plants, where they would be at a huge disadvantage, where they would stand to lose their jobs — or, rather, lose protection and coverage by their employer if they got sick.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    Judy, they have workers comp. All the people who are working for the large companies or are working for any company has workers compensation to take care of — I mean, yes, workers comp, in case they get hurt.

    We know that. We're worried about people, basically, that might go into a store and says, I contracted it in your place of business because your…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    … your employers weren't safe enough, you didn't sanitize enough, things of that sort. There's a lot of things we didn't know.

    I went ahead and signed onto that bill with my Republican colleagues, in the spirit of bipartisanship, because, basically, everyone has to give and take. My reason is, is, they shortened their time element from five years to two years, one year back, one year forward, not one year back and four years forward, and made some other critical changes.

    I'm sure it's not good enough for a lot of people.

    But here's the thing, Judy. If, for some reason, they can't come to an agreement, and the Senate and the House Democrats and Republicans won't agree, then that stays by itself, because those two are — those two are one bill, liability and state and local help.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But my…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    The 748 is the emergency bill, Judy. That takes care of every need every American has with their lifeline for housing, rental, basically everything that's needed for you to survive, get through the worst quarter of next year, which is going to be the first quarter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as we stand here tonight, Senator Manchin, are you — how confident are you that that aid bill, the $748 billion, will pass, whether or not there's agreement on the other issues around liability protection and aid for state and local governments?

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    Judy, I'm as confident as I am standing here talking to you that this is real.

    This language is done. The bill is — this is not just a concept. Two weeks ago, we gave basically an Outline. That's all we had was an outline showing you how we come to 908. We worked it and worked it and worked it for the last 30 days, morning, noon and night. Our staff has been going around. We have been on Zoom calls and phone calls continuously every day.

    We have came — we have come to this, after a lot, a lot of discussions, back-and-forth bantering, talking to our caucuses respectively, Democrat and Republican, and representing them. No one else has done anything like this.

    If the leadership all of a sudden wants to reinvent the wheel, that's what they would be doing. We would hope that they would say, thank you all for what you have done, because, sometimes, they hit an impasse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well…

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    We were able to work past that impasse. And we have a bill. I'm confident.

    And if they want to stay here for Christmas, I will be right with them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we saw the bipartisanship today. We will see what the leadership does.

    Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, we thank you.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin:

    Thank you, Judy.

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