The odds that the Democrats will manage to get a major economic bailout through this week were boosted by an unexpected source: West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican. Mr Justice said in consecutive interviews with CNN and MSNBC on Monday that Congress should “go big” and not worry about the federal deficit.
Or, as the governor put it in his popular style: “We have to stop counting the egg-sucking legs on the cows and count the cows and just move.” (Rough translation: stop worrying about details, and hand over an invoice.)
Indirectly, Mr. Justice’s comments included a sharp reprimand from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat who was associated with G.O.P. Colleagues on a smaller aid package that would send checks to fewer Americans and cost the government less.
Perhaps due to the nudge of Mr Justice, Mr Manchin, the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, agreed to vote with his party on Tuesday to push President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package using the budget vote, simple majority. Mr Manchin said Wednesday that the price of $ 1.9 trillion would be acceptable if the bill made a bipartisan contribution.
West Virginia was also on national news for its success in introducing coronavirus vaccines. It tops all states as a percentage of the population, 4 percent that received both shots.
In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Justice, the scion of a coal family and allegedly the richest man in West Virginia, discussed the incentive, the vaccines, his loyalty to Donald J. Trump, and whether he could challenge Mr. Manchin in 2024. For the sake of clarity, the interview has been slightly edited and condensed.
When you discussed the stimulus package in Congress, you said, “If we throw away some money now, what then?” That doesn’t sound very republican.
We need to stop thinking, “What is the right Republican or the right Democrat?” I’ve been a businessman all my life and I know that if you have a real problem, you can’t cut your way out of the problem. Too often we try to tone things down and not fund it properly.
If we ended up wasting a few dollars and this kicked the economy and helped all of those who were out there, as many as possible who were really hurting, we wouldn’t be a little better off than trying to just customize those Shoe size to the foot and reduce the shoe size so that you cannot even walk?
I would much rather give someone a pair of shoes that are a little big than a pair of shoes that are too small to wear.
Did you speak to Senator Manchin to get him to see your point?
I didn’t have. Everyone knows pretty well what my views were. I expressed the need for this nation to be brave and great.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican Senator from West Virginia, was part of a G.O.P. Group that met with President Biden to discuss a much smaller stimulus plan that offered $ 1,000 checks instead of $ 1,400 checks. What do you think of this position?
I keep going back to the exact same thing and it’s this: if we end up overdoing it a little, the downside risk is minimal. If we undercut, the downside risk is enormous.
You are temporary governor. Are you considering running for the Senate in 2024?
No, I really am not. I don’t want my makeup to be a 100 and try to go through a decision making process and everything. You know, I’m a C.E.O. If I can keep doing good things for West Virginia, I’ll do it and then probably move on to sunset.
About 11 percent of all West Virgins received the first dose of the vaccine, more than any other state except Alaska. West Virginia said A few days ago it was the first state to complete the second round of vaccinations for all nursing home residents. What advice do you have for other governors?
What we did in West Virginia is we hired and hired everyone. We have deployed our local pharmacies, our local clinics, and our National Guard. I said we’re not going to have our vaccines on the shelf, we’re going to bring them to the people.
This is an absolute gospel fact: last week we had in the arms of the people 108.1 percent [leveraging extra doses from vials] of the vaccines we received – our first doses. And 70 percent of our second round cans. And we did that week after week. For the past three or four weeks, every dose that comes to West Virginia is in someone’s arms by dark on the following Sunday.
We are the third oldest state with the most chronic diseases. We could do the same thing in every state in the country if people would play the piece that we developed here because it is a real piece and it works.
A Republican member of the state legislature, Derrick Evans, was calculated After storming the Capitol on January 6, he resigned from his seat. Did Donald Trump instigate a riot?
I really don’t think so. I think the impeachment process is a shame.
You know, I really and really think we have to respect all of the good things that the Trump administration has done. Sure there were times when Donald was left out in his comments, but that’s Donald Trump. It’s just his personality.
I know the Trump family. I know you very well. There is no chance on God’s earth that they would have condoned anything that happened to the onslaught on our nation’s Capitol.
Under the Trump administration, coal production remained stable but low. In 2019 production was the lowest since 1978 and the US got more energy from renewables than from coal. How do you rate Trump’s election pledges, particularly in West Virginia, to bring back coal?
I firmly believe that we should use alternative energy sources. You know, for the past two weeks I’ve welcomed a windmill business in West Virginia with a $ 200 million investment.
At the same time, it is frivolous for us to believe that our nation can go forward today without coal or gas. There will be a day when we move away from fossil fuels. But I honestly don’t think it’s now. And I don’t think it will be in the foreseeable decades. It is foreseeable in decades. But it is certainly not foreseeable in the near future.
President Biden re-acceded to the Paris Agreement and will eventually seek to reintroduce the Obama-era regulations for vehicles and power plants. In addition, G.M. announced that it would phase out all gas-powered cars Is there any way West Virginia can support part of the government’s climate agenda?
The big part of West Virginia is that today the percentage of our coal and gas severance tax revenue is the lowest it has been in the last 25 years, and yet West Virginia is doing very well. Because we’ve diversified in so many different directions.
You know tourism is exploding. High tech explodes. Some manufacture. Higher ed. Virgin Hyperloop is on its way to West Virginia. A lot of really exciting things happen in West Virginia.