Joe Manchin

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said the shocking upset victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s special election Tuesday indicated a course correction in American politics.

“The American public, the people in West Virginia, Alabama, and all over this country — you can only push them so far,” Manchin said Wednesday on WAJR’s Morgantown AM.

The first-term Senator, who will fight for his own re-election bid in less than two years, said that extremes on both sides of the aisle often lead to a course correction. In this case, he said, it resulted in the first Democratic victory in an Alabama U.S. Senate election in a quarter of a century.

“You can only go to the extreme so far,” he said. “If you go too far to the left and it’s too liberal and just far out of the zone, people will push back. And they have. And if you go too far to the right, it’s not reasonable, it’s not responsible, it’s not sensible. They’ll push back. I think this country has a way of correcting itself, and I’m so proud.”

Manchin said it was a clear victory for his shrinking wing of the Democratic Party — made up of more conservative members from red states. Jones was projected the winner late Tuesday night in Alabama, although Republican foe Roy Moore did not immediately concede. It is unlikely Jones will be seated in time to vote on tax reform, after House and Senate conferees announced an agreement in principle Wednesday.

“I want tax reform,” Manchin said. “I want the tax reform that Ronald Reagan did in 1986 where we all sat down and worked it.”

He criticized the Republican leadership in the Senate for failing to hold sufficient hearings on tax reform and for using budget reconciliation, a budgetary procedure that will allow the proposed tax reform package to pass with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate — rather than meeting the filibuster-proof threshold of 60 votes.

“We can help people and make it permanent to the average person and to the working people and to the small businesses,” Manchin said. “This thing is completely backward from what President [Trump] even told me himself.”

Instead, Manchin said the permanent cuts are aimed at two groups — the exceptionally wealthy and corporate America.

“We’re trying to pound a round peg into a square hole and it’s being very difficult,” Manchin said.

Meanwhile, Manchin also lobbed criticism at both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for continuing to abstain from extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“They don’t have any intention, the Republican leadership, whether it be Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, of taking it up and extending it,” he said. “We haven’t found any signs whatsoever in any of the spending bills; end of year spending, which basically keeps the government open, was the perfect place to put it.”

The West Virginia House Delegation sent a letter this week urging the Senate to pass a long-term CHIP reauthorization. Reps. Evan Jenkins, David McKinley, and Alex Mooney sent that letter to Senate Finance Committe Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Monday.

“I know we get a bad rap on so many things, which is unfair, but on this one here which is good — that we do care about children and that’s our highest priority — we’ve done very well,” Manchin said. “And this will hurt us. There’s about 21,000 West Virginia children that are enrolled in CHIP.”

A bipartisan group of governors authored a letter to Congress this week requesting a similar long-term solution for the program. Ohio Republican John Kasich and Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper were among the lead authors.

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