September 21, 2012

Manchin ‘ashamed’ that politics trumps fiscal reforms | The Beckley Register-Herald

An irritated and “ashamed” Sen. Joe Manchin chastised his Capitol Hill colleagues Thursday for hitting the hustings to court voters rather than burn the midnight oil to deal with America’s spiraling debt crisis.

Manchin recalled the lament of President Harry Truman in castigating the 80th Congress as “do nothing” and wondered how “give ’em Hell” Harry would define this one.

Even with the stalemate in the early 1950s, he noted, Truman could take satisfaction in knowing 900 of his bills got through Congress. In this one, only a little over 170 survived.

“I don’t even know if he would have a definition for us,” Manchin said.

“That might be ‘don’t show,’ didn’t show up. We just didn’t show up. I’m ashamed. I’m really ashamed. This is not who we are. It’s not how I’m made up. You’d have to have a word added in the dictionary for this one.”

Manchin called the fiscal crisis — a national debt of $16 trillion and climbing every second — a “really serious” issue and was openly angry in his telephone conference call with West Virginia reporters that Congress decided to put the bus in neutral and go campaigning.

As Congress prepared to vote on a continuing resolution to keep the country going, Manchin voted against it, pointing out a dozen such efforts have been enacted in the two years he has been a senator.

“That’s basically just kicking the can,” he said. “We’re not fixing anything.”

Manchin again voiced his dismay that the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission was a “super failure.”

So, just how serious is the situation? Is America on a rendezvous with total collapse?

Manchin stopped far short of painting such a bleak scenario but, instead, spoke optimistically that the nation can repair the damage and get its financial house back in order.

“We need a big fix,” he told reporters, emphasizing that a rollback in spending won’t do the job alone.

Instead, he said, the tax code needs to be revamped so that the “very, very wealthy” pay their fair share, and the nation needs to abandon the notion that simply printing more money is a panacea.

Manchin pointed to another Democratic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, saying he shored up infrastructure with real jobs that kick started the economy in the throes of the Great Depression.

Manchin predicted a “fix of some kind” to head off disaster but wondered if it would be sufficient to encourage the markets that America remains a world power and that people still view this nation as “a safe haven.”

“That’s the $64,000 question,” he said.

Manchin has preached the gospel of belt-tightening and fiscal responsibility ever since taking office and only a week ago held a special forum on the debt crisis at the West Virginia Capitol.

“I think the markets will start tumbling if we don’t fulfill our promise to the American people,” he said in his conference call.

“I’m concerned what happens after we come back. The problem is, we’re going to be gone for six to seven weeks. We could work the last three of those weeks trying to put a good dent in the direction we’re going to go when we come back after the election or stay here the whole time. I’m for whatever it takes to fix it. This is bigger than my election or bigger than any election we have.”

Automatic spending cuts are to trigger New Year’s Day, but Manchin said it is apparent to him they likewise will be forestalled.

“For the sake of the American people, they better hope that we come to the table and have an agreement on a big, large deal,” he said.

Manchin said he doesn’t think the failure to cope with the debt has been “intentional,” nor did he put any credence in a rash of conspiracy theories surrounding the crisis.

“There shouldn’t be a conspiracy, just a call to arms, a call to action,” he said.

Manchin said America has faced serious challenges from the very age of its infancy, but in each crisis, individuals put the nation above themselves.

“People now are more worried about themselves than about putting the country on the right path,” he said.

“There must be some kind of super secret club up there that I don’t know about that people are willing to sell their soul to be a part of it. I can’t figure it out.”

By:  Mannix Porterfield