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Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) told the Washington Post Friday that he would "absolutely not" support passing a round of $2,000 stimulus checks as a first priority, a key component of President-elect Joe Biden's economic revival plans.

The latest: A spokesperson clarified Manchin's comments after the Post story published Friday, saying the senator is not drawing a red line against $2,000 checks — only that it should be the first priority, as Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has stated.

Why it matters: Senators-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock's victories in Georgia's runoff elections on Tuesday clinched a narrow 50-50 majority for Democrats in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Harris acting as a tiebreaker. Moderate senators like Manchin will serve as the chamber's new power center on close votes.

  • Manchin was the only Democratic senator to vote yes on confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • The West Virginian has also voted with Trump more than any other Democrat in the Senate, the New York Times notes.

What they're saying: “Absolutely not. No. Getting people vaccinated, that’s job No. 1,” Manchin told the Post when asked if he would support $2,000 checks as the new Senate's first priority.

  • “How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can’t tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that’s already got a check."

The big picture: The House passed a measure to boost stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 per person in December, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it from receiving a vote in the Senate.

Yes, but: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been championing the push alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to increase the size of stimulus checks, an effort also endorsed by President Trump. Republican support could give the measure the majority it needs to pass the Senate.

Go deeper: Schumer says first priority in new Senate is $2,000 stimulus checks

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a spokesperson's clarification.

Go deeper

Scoop: Conservative group puts $700k behind Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley explains his objection to certifying the 2020 election results hours after the U.S. Capitol siege. Photo: Congress.gov via Getty Images

A Republican group is raising and spending huge amounts of money defending Sen. Josh Hawley after he was ostracized for early January’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Why it matters: The Senate Conservatives Fund is plugging Hawley's ideological bona fides and backfilling lost corporate cash with needed political and financial support, helping inoculate him as he weighs reelection or a possible presidential campaign in 2024.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."