September 21, 2012

Congress urged to block continuing resolution | The Martinsburg Journal

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With worries of a sequester in tow, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) urged Congress to block a continuing resolution Thursday. If passed, the resolution would be the 13th temporary spending measure put in place to keep the nation's budget issues at bay since Nov. 2010.

The Senate is expected to adjourn until after the Nov. 6 election following the vote, according to a press release from Manchin's Senate office. Manchin urged the Senate to stay in session in order to address the issue of a fiscal cliff that the U.S. will have to face as early as January 1.

"We need to stay here and work," he said.

Manchin called the potential passing of the resolution, "business as usual" for Washington.

"The continuing resolutions are supposed to be temporary, but it looks to me like they've become a permanent way of doing business here in Congress," he said in his Senate floor remarks.

Citing statistics that state Medicare will become insolvent by 2024 and that Social Security will have only enough funding to deliver 75 cents on the dollar by 2033, Manchin said Congress must stop ignoring the nation's financial problems.

"That's what we're dealing with and no one wants to face it," Manchin said Thursday in a press conference call following his address.

Manchin said he believes legislators have put politics before progress, stating that the 112th Congress has passed just more than 170 pieces of legislation. He then compared legislators to Harry Truman's do-nothing Congress, which passed just more than 900 pieces.

"I'm ashamed. I'm really ashamed," Manchin said. "In this type of atmosphere nothing's getting moved, even in committees."

A sequester is an automatic spending cutback put in place by lawmakers to encourage Congress to come up with balanced budget solutions. Talk of a sequester beginning in 2013 has been occurring for a year now.

When asked about the effects of the possible sequester on West Virginia's budget, Director of the State Budget Office, Mike McKown, said, in general, it would be a year or more before agencies felt the cuts.

"It takes a year or two for (federal) money to reach them anyway," McKown said. "Even once sequester starts to kick in, some of the bigger agencies wouldn't feel that until later on down the road."

Referencing a July 2012 report called "Federal Funds Information for States," an analysis of sequester effects on the state level, McKown said federal programs such as Medicaid would not be subject to sequester, while Title 1 would. He also said the effects of a sequester should be looked at on an individual agency level.

"Some agencies may be living closer to the edge on their funding than others," he said.

While budget cuts will have to happen across the board in the event of a sequester, McKown said that agencies have been made aware and were told to prepare to cut their budgets by seven percent for the 2014 fiscal year.

"There should be enough time to prepare for this. We've known about sequester for a year now," he said.

McKown criticized the finances of the nation, saying continued borrowing is unsustainable.

"For every dollar the federal government spends, they only collect 60 cents in taxes. They're borrowing 40 cents for every dollar," he said. "It's going to bankrupt our kids and grandkids."

"They've got to do something in Washington. We can't continue to keep spending at the current level that we are," McKown said.

"I'm just an accountant, but the numbers don't add up," McKown said. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out."

It is hoped that Congress will make a decision on the continuing resolution today, according to a press representative of Manchin's office.

By:  Rachel Molenda