August 09, 2011

Manchin calls for end to partisan bickering | Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says the Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. debt is a "warning shot" to end the partisan bickering in Washington, D.C.

He's also throwing his hat into the ring of senators being considered for an elite group tasked with finding a way to slash federal spending.

Manchin, D-W.Va., was at the state Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Charleston Monday morning to meet with business leaders on job creation.

But the meeting was held under the cloud of S&P's historic decision to downgrade the United States' credit rating last Friday, which sent already battered global markets into a further tailspin.

S&P blamed the heated rhetoric and political vitriol dominating Washington politics during the recent debt ceiling debate as a leading factor in the decision.

And Manchin said he hopes his colleagues in Washington take it as a sign they need to change their ways.

"I would think that this was more of — I hope — a warning shot to say, 'Guys, get your act together; this is ridiculous,' " Manchin said.

He said S&P captured the sentiment of the American people who saw their government unable to come together and work for the betterment of the country.

"It was very dysfunctional," he said. "It shouldn't work that way, and the people were disgusted with it."

But the downgrade also has started a new round of partisan blame-gaming among congressional leaders.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that this was the "Tea Party downgrade," while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the downgrade was a message to Democrats to cut spending.

But Manchin said lawmakers need to get beyond that.

"This is not a time to blame," Manchin said. "We went right to the brink; now can we really intervene in a responsible way? That's the challenge that was sent."

Prior to the debt ceiling compromise, Manchin was backing a bipartisan proposal in the U.S. Senate to cut spending by $4 trillion.

But that plan was discarded in favor of a $2.1 trillion compromise package negotiated between the White House and Congress.

S&P felt that plan did not go far enough to reverse the nation's increasing debt burden, so it moved ahead with the downgrade.

While the plan does enact more than $900 billion in immediate cuts, the remaining $1.2 trillion would be cut by what's being called the "Super Congress," a 12-member committee with three Republicans and three Democrats from each house of Congress that will formulate a plan to enact the cuts.

Manchin said he has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., requesting a spot on the committee.

While he knows that he is low in the Senate pecking order, Manchin said his experiences as governor with cutting spending and enacting changes that improved West Virginia's credit rating would help him to provide valuable insight.

Congress isn't set to come back into session until Sept. 7, but Manchin said he would be willing to go back and work out further debt solutions "in a heartbeat," particularly if markets continue to worsen.

"I would think that if they see this continued worldwide slide that depends on the strength of America, then we ought to get our act together and back to Washington and do the long-term fix that needed to be done in the first place," Manchin said.

"I would hope that those in charge — the leadership on all sides — are looking in a rational manner to put the country first," he said. "And if they need to call us back, then call us back."

By:  Jared Hunt