New York, Feb 1: As Americans anxiously await Covid-19 relief payments from the Joe Biden government, an off-message TV interview by Vice President Kamala Harris is backfiring big time on the White House which is trying to push an ambitious $1.9 trillion pandemic relief through Congress.
Democrats annoyed with Harris are describing her performance “ham handed”. Harris’ interview has angered a Democrat crucial to closure of the proposed relief; he blasted Harris after she framed the relief package as a “big issue” for West Virginia, a key swing state in an evenly divided 50-50 Senate.
For the Covid-19 economic relief to go through, Biden and Harris need West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to play ball, not the other way around. Harris’ interview didn’t seem to factor that in.
Harris was responding to a question from a WSAZ TV host who asked when Americans can expect relief cheques to land. Harris said , “To your point in West Virginia, one in seven families is describing their household as being hungry, one in six can’t pay their rent, and one in four small businesses are closing permanently or have already closed, so it’s a big issue in West Virginia and across the country,” Harris said. “And that’s why the president and I are offering the American Rescue Plan.”
With the Senate on a 50-50 razor’s edge and Harris in tie breaker role, disgruntled Senators have the power to make or break the pandemic relief bill’s passage when millions of Americans are waiting for politicians to deliver $1,400 in direct payments instead of weeks of just talk.
“I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it. But the COVID relief has to pass – no ifs, ands or buts,” Biden said on Friday.
Democrats are planning to take steps to pass the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill without Republican help. Even then, it needs 51 votes in the Senate. Even a single Democrat angered by a “president and I are offering the American Rescue Plan” soundbite could blow it all up.