MORGANTOWN – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., met virtually with the press Thursday to talk about the COVID-19 relief package shaping up in Congress and a handful of other issues, including the transportation and infrastructure bill.
Capito said she considers the $1.9 trillion COVID package — that may see a House vote by the end of this week — bloated. Only 10% deals with COVID relief. The rest contains long-term spending, pension relief, the minimum wage hike and other matters not directly aimed at COVID.
She favors a narrower bill, she said, dealing with vaccines and vaccine distribution, testing, therapeutics, individual stimulus checks, and aid to small businesses and schools. “I think we should have a targeted approach here and, unfortunately, we don’t.”
It’s not bipartisan either, she added, saying she’s especially not interested in bailing out states that have mismanaged their finances over the years.
Capito is ranking member of the Environment and Public Works committee that every five years crafts a massive surface transportation bill that lets the state governors know what their funding formulas will be.
They had a hearing with some governors yesterday and discussed such things as ease of permitting, flexibility and climate change – more electric vehicles and charging stations, and resiliency of construction. The committee passed a bipartisan transportation bill 21-0 last year, and she hopes to do that again this year.
Capito said she’s been at the White House to meet with President Biden on both issues – COVID relief and infrastructure.
“I’m hoping that we can have a robust infrastructure package all of us can work on,” she said.
Capito fielded a question on the $15 federal minimum wage included in the COVID package. She said there had been no minimum wage hike since 2007, and she voted for that one. It’s time for a discussion on the issue but not in the COVID bill.
She was one of several senators, she said, who signed on to a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10, with e-verify eligibility to work and indexed to raise gradually instead of waiting 13 years.
A $15 an hour wage, she said, may be right for Seattle and San Francisco but not rural America. It could lead to what the Congressional Budget Office forecasts: The loss of 1.4 million jobs.
“So there’s a better way to do it,” she said, “and we should have a broader discussion on it, [rather] than jamming in this bill.”
The Dominion Post reached out to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Thursday for comment on the issues covered in the press conference but did not hear back in time for this report.