Joe Manchin tests positive for COVID-19

July 25, 2022, 3:10 PM UTC
Senator Joe Manchin
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19.
Al Drago—Bloomberg/Getty Images

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced Monday that he has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the latest in a string of Democratic senators to be absent from Washington due to the highly contagious illness. 

Manchin’s diagnosis highlights the challenge Democrats will face in mustering the 50 votes they need to pass a drug price and Obamacare subsidy bill before the start of August recess next week. 

Last week, Delaware Senator Tom Carper and Minnesota Senator Tina Smith announced they had contracted COVID, while Senator Richard Blumenthal and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had the virus earlier in the month. In addition, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has been away from the Senate recovering from hip surgery for weeks. 

Democrats will need all 50 of their caucus members and Vice President Kamala Harris to vote to approve the party-line budget bill enacting drug price cuts and extending Obamacare premium subsidies for two years, if as expected all Republicans are present and vote no. While Manchin is likely to return to Washington next week and Leahy’s office has said he can be available for votes if needed, any further positive COVID tests among Democrats could throw the plan for the drug bill into doubt. 

Senate Democrats are waiting Monday for a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian on whether the drug bill—which allows Medicare to negotiate prices it pays for drugs for the first time and caps out of pocket costs for seniors—will be allowed in the fast-track budget process. 

A vote is planned today in the Senate to end debate on a $79 billion China competition bill that provides $52 billion in subsidies to the semiconductor industry. The legislation has bipartisan support and won 64 votes on an earlier procedural vote so Manchin’s absence is not expected to hinder its passage by the House and Senate this week. 

—With assistance from Alexander Ruoff.

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