July 29, 2011

Manchin says long-term debt solution needed | Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Freshman West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said Friday he's optimistic that a compromise on raising the nation's debt ceiling can be reached by Tuesday's deadline but reiterated that he wants Congress to deal with the nation's long-term debt problems, rather than settle for "quick fixes."

If Congress does not raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Tuesday, fears are that the government could go into default on its debts.

Manchin disagrees with the two legislative solutions proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"It is coming down to the Aug. 2 deadline," Manchin said during a telephone news conference Friday afternoon, "but I am not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless I see a pathway for a long-term fix."

Manchin said Boehner's legislation, which passed the House Friday but was quickly killed in the Senate, focused on taking care of government finances for the next nine months, while Reid's proposal would cover the next two years. He said he wants a longer-term debt solution to prevent a credit rating downgrade for the government.

Manchin said he believes that will require making $4 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.

During his teleconference, Manchin said he is "not worried about the next election, but about the next generation and how we move this country forward."

He said he is not proposing any specific piece of legislation himself.

"You can't govern from the right or the left," he said. "It will be basically a plan in the middle that fixes our problem."

President Obama has suggested he might be willing to accept a plan making possible changes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Manchin said he would not back any legislation that takes funding away from Social Security and Medicare.

"That will not happen. That is a commitment," Manchin said. "We need to get rid of fraud and waste and abuse, but we must not get rid of programs people depend on for their livelihood."

During a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Manchin also criticized the "wars that we should not be fighting" in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Manchin said he believes a budget solution might include a "hybrid" of ideas developed by Obama's debt commission and the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Six."

"The Gang of Six doesn't raise tax rates," he said. "It recommends lowering them, but it closes loopholes, credits and [tax] offsets."

Manchin said he believes the country will face disastrous problems if the deficit hurts its credit rating.

"A downgrade in our credit worthiness could lead to a sell-off of stocks, Treasury securities, and U.S dollars," Manchin said during his Thursday Senate speech.

"Gold prices could rise even higher, and interest rates could increase across the board - which would not only have a devastating impact on consumers, small businesses and local governments, but would make the price of financing our nation's debt even more costly.

"At a minimum, the shock to our nation's confidence from our first-ever downgrade could prove more costly than we can even fathom."

By:  Paul J. Nyden