December 12, 2013

Manchin supports bipartisan budget proposal | Huntington Herald Dipsatch

WASHINGTON -- The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 isn't exactly what Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would have written himself, but that isn't stopping the third-year senator from supporting the measure for the sake of progress, he said during a conference call with media outlets Wednesday.

As drafted, the bill proposed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would reverse $63 billion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect in the current budget year and the next one, easing a crunch on programs as diverse as environmental protection and the Pentagon.

Manchin said the measure likely will be put to a vote before this weekend.

"This budget agreement is the first bipartisan deal that has been proposed since I became a member of the Senate more than three years ago," Manchin said. "While this deal is not perfect, and not the one I would have written myself, it is a first step toward getting Congress back on track. I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will build upon this deal and work together toward a long-term budgetary fix."

The budget would offset the higher spending with $85 billion in savings over a decade from higher fees and relatively modest curtailments on government benefit programs. Nearly a third of the total savings would come almost a decade from now, in 2022 and 2023, partly from extending a current 2 percent cut in payments to Medicare providers. Other changes are scripted to begin earlier. Future federal workers would pay more toward their own retirement, fees would rise on air travelers and corporations would pay more to the government agency that guarantees their pension programs.

Manchin said the measure will hold off government sequestration until 2016.

The measure was met with apprehension from both polar ends of the political spectrum, with conservatives saying they were concerned about spending levels and Democrats upset that the measure did not extend benefits for long-term unemployed citizens.

Among Republicans, House Appropriations Committee members favored the budget deal, since it increased the likelihood they would be able to pass annual spending bills rather than rely on short-term stopgap bills that reduce their power over the federal purse.

Manchin didn't count himself among those who called for the measure's demise, but he said part of the measure's luster is that neither party gets everything it wants.

"No one is enamored with it," Manchin said. "Everyone understands it is a positive movement, and it's what is going to happen at this time. What we're getting back to is some semblance of a regular budget."