WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, whose resistance to the scope of President Biden’s economic agenda has forced fellow Democrats to pare back their legislation, said Monday that he now considers himself ‘’totally out of sync’' with his party.
‘’I’m totally out of sync with 48 other Democrats,’’ Manchin said, referring to most other Democratic members of the Senate. ‘’I love them all. And I love all the Republicans. So I’m just trying to survive in a very, very, very divided Congress in a very divided country.’’
Manchin made his comments at a Monday night dinner with reporters. They were shared on Twitter by Josh Lederman of NBC News.
At an event Tuesday hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, Manchin suggested changing his party affiliation to Republican or independent wouldn’t affect who he is.
‘’Do you think by having a D or an I or an R is going to change who I am?’’ Manchin told David Rubenstein, the group’s chairman. ‘’I don’t think the Rs would be anymore happier with me than the Ds are right now.’’
Primarily because of objections raised by Manchin, Democrats are in the process of scaling back a $3.5 trillion social spending package to about half that size or less. As part of the process, Biden invited Manchin and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, to breakfast Sunday at his Delaware home.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden had been ‘’encouraged’' by the breakfast meeting.
‘’There was agreement on the need to move forward, agreement on the need to make these historic investments in child care and elder care and expanding access to health care,’’ she said. ‘’And there are important discussions now about exactly how to do that. That’s where the stage we’re at right now.’’
Manchin has objected to several provisions favored by other Democrats, such as the expansion of Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits, in addition to the overall size of the package. Manchin reiterated his opposition to that proposal Monday and a related effort to try to expand Medicaid coverage, even as he told reporters that he thinks Democrats can finalize the broad contours of the spending package this week.
GOP’s Brooks denies role in Jan. 6 event
Representative Mo Brooks, Republican from Alabama, on Monday disputed a report that he had a role in organizing the rally on Jan. 6 that immediately preceded the riot at the US Capitol. But his denial came with a note: Brooks said he would be ‘’proud’' if any of his staff had a role in planning the rally that resulted in five deaths and hundreds of people being injured.
Brooks responded to a Rolling Stone report that found the GOP congressman or his staff to have been in contact with two unnamed organizers of the Jan. 6 rally and similar gatherings following the 2020 presidential election.
He told AL.com that the ‘’beginning’' of his involvement in the rally was when the White House asked him to speak the day before, saying he ‘’had no intentions of going to that rally until Jan. 5.’’ While the congressman could not say whether any of his staff worked on the Jan. 6 rally, he acknowledged that he would be happy if they had helped organize it.
‘’Quite frankly, I’d be proud of them if they did help organize a First Amendment rally to protest voter fraud and election theft,’’ Brooks said of his staff to the outlet.
Brooks, who has pushed falsehoods about ‘’massive voter fraud’' during the 2020 election without evidence, repeated his answer to CNN’s Melanie Zanona on Monday, specifying that he would be proud if any of his staff had a role in planning the Jan. 6 rally ‘’at the Ellipse.’’
A spokesman for Brooks did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday from The Post. Brooks has previously said he did not do anything wrong by speaking at the event.
The Alabama congressman’s response comes at a time when Brooks, who is running for a US Senate seat next year, has been accused in a lawsuit of helping to incite the riot.
Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat from California, filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Brooks, former president Donald Trump, and several others for giving speeches at the Jan. 6 rally in which they falsely claimed the 2020 election results were fraudulent and encouraged rallygoers to march on the Capitol, where Congress was holding an accounting of the electoral college votes that would make Joe Biden president.
Brooks asked a federal judge in August to grant him immunity from the lawsuit.
Alabama governor tells agencies to resist US vaccine mandates
Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey ordered state agencies to resist the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandates on Monday, pledging to fight the White House in court.
In her executive order, she says state officials should not penalize any business or individual for ignoring federal vaccine mandates. It also says that even when compelled to enforce federal laws, state officials should ‘’take all practical steps to notify the affected’' that Alabama opposes all vaccine mandates. Her attorney general is preparing a lawsuit to stop the mandates, she said.
‘’Alabamians are overwhelmingly opposed to these outrageous, Biden mandates, and I stand with them,’’ Ivey said in a statement.
Ivey’s order goes against the Biden administration’s sweeping vaccine mandate that requires workers at federal contractors, federal employees, and health workers at facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid money to get vaccinated. Ivey’s order also stands at odds with White House plans to oblige all US enterprises with 100 or more workers to adopt vaccine mandates, or install a weekly testing regime. Ivey said those moves are egregious, illegal, and constitute federal overreach.
Alabama joins a growing list of state governments that have sought to counter the Biden administration’s plans to raise the nation’s overall coronavirus vaccination rate via mandates. The division has exacerbated political tensions and complicated efforts to contain the pandemic.
Republican governors in Texas, Florida, and Arizona have imposed executive orders that aim to create legal loopholes for individuals to sidestep vaccine mandates, without facing financial or professional consequences.