On the surface, there appears to be a predictable partisan split on the COVID relief package, with most Democrats eyeing an ambitious approach that would give the economy an enormous boost, as Republicans eye a meager response.
But there are exceptions to the partisan divide. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice -- the Republican governor of a state Donald Trump carried by nearly 40 points -- argued yesterday that Congress has a responsibility to pursue the most ambitious course possible. TPM noted:
Justice dismissed the idea of being "fiscally responsible" in a time when many Americans are struggling to get by. "We need to understand that trying to be, per se, fiscally responsible at this point in time with what we've got going on in this country -- if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?" Justice said. "We have really got to move and get people taken care of and get people back on balance."
Asked about Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) skepticism about the benefits of direct-aid checks to working-class families, the Republican governor from Manchin's home state added, "I mean, we got people that are really hurting. I mean, that's just all there is to it."
Soon after, Justice also spoke to MSNBC's Craig Melvin and said, in reference to congressional efforts, "I absolutely believe we need to go big.... At this point in time in this nation, we need to go big. We need to quit counting the egg-sucking legs on the cows and count the cows and just move. And move forward and move right now."
I can't say with confidence exactly what that metaphor meant, but the West Virginian's underlying point was obvious.
As for why interviews like these matter, Justice's comments certainly extend some partisan cover to Joe Manchin, to the extent that he wants or needs it. Congress' most conservative Democrat hasn't yet said whether he's prepared to support his party's ambitious COVID relief package, but having his state's Republican governor effectively endorse the Democratic approach should give the senator some added encouragement to do the right thing.
What's more, as the debate moves forward, Democratic leaders will no doubt be eager to push back against claims that their relief plan is "partisan" by pointing to comments like Justice's.