February 21, 2020

Manchin explains impeachment votes, looks ahead at Charleston town hall | WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following the impeachment trial, President Donald Trump tweeted he was “very surprised and disappointed” by U.S Sen. Joe Manchin’s conviction votes. He also called Manchin “a puppet” for Congress’ Democratic leaders.

“They are really mad at Senator Joe Munchkin in West Virginia,” Trump later said. “He couldn’t understand the Transcripts. (Utah Sen. Mitt) Romney could, but didn’t want to!”

Manchin, D-W.Va., had an opportunity to explain his vote on Friday during a town hall at the University of Charleston. When the senator brought up the impeachment trial, most of the 150 attendees applauded in support of the senator’s decision.

“This is the most difficult decision I have had to make,” Manchin said. “I’ve told you before that if I can’t explain it, I don’t vote for it. I don’t look at whether its a Democrat issue or a Republican issue.”

The Senate acquitted Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The two articles of impeachment stemmed from a phone call last summer involving Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump requested an investigation in former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The Trump administration later withheld $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

Manchin defended his votes, saying he made the decision based on evidence put forward by managers from the House of Representatives. Manchin also supported allowing additional witnesses and documents during the Senate trial, which the full chamber opposed.

“I didn’t want to make that vote,” he told MetroNews regarding the impeachment trial. “When it got to me, I made the vote based on facts and based on the evidence. It should never have gotten to that.”

Manchin is Trump’s leading ally among Democrats; FiveThirtyEight notes Manchin has voted 52.5% in line with the Trump agenda, the highest among active Democratic senators.

Yet Manchin has not been afraid to vote against the president’s goals. West Virginia’s senior senator opposed the attempts to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law as well as the tax law during Trump’s first year in office.

“We can do something. Work with me, Mr. President. I’ll be an honest broker,” Manchin told the audience. “I’ll tell you what I agree with and don’t agree with. We’ll find a balance.”

Manchin did mention his support for some of Trump’s actions, including his trade policy with China. He did, however, criticize the president’s relationship with Russia, noting the country’s tampering in the 2016 election and concerns of interference in this year’s election cycle.

“I cannot figure that one out,” he said.

“There is not one of us on the Intelligence Committee or in the Senate that does not know — with the 17 intelligence agencies we have — that Russia has been extremely involved and they have not backed off.”

Manchin touched on multiple issues during the town hall, including the legal challenge to “Obamacare.” West Virginia is part of a coalition of states looking to overturn the statute, citing the zeroing out of the individual mandate as essential to the law.

Manchin has stressed concerns about West Virginians who would be at risk of losing their insurance coverage, including 800,000 people with a pre-existing condition and 159,000 residents with coverage through Medicaid expansion.

“We’re on the verge of losing health care as we know if for people who never had health care before,” Manchin said. “They’ll be at the mercy of large insurance companies whether you can afford it or even get it. We can’t do that. We can fix what we have.”

The U.S. Supreme Court previously rejected an opportunity to take up the matter before its term ends in June. Justices on Friday discussed considering the lawsuit before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a final verdict.

By:  Alex Thomas