Manchin: Washington May Be Broken, But It Will Not Break Me
On Senate floor, Manchin says best path to prevent default and credit downgrade is compromise that ensures a guaranteed vote on long-term fix, not short term deals
Manchin makes clear he will not vote for current Reid or Boehner debt ceiling proposals, saying each fails to provide a commonsense, long-term debt fix
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging the President, his fellow Senators and Members of the House of Representatives to come together around a bipartisan, long-term debt fix that will prevent this nation from defaulting and being handed a devastating downgrade in its AAA credit rating. Senator Manchin said that neither plan currently being discussed to raise the debt ceiling – one offered by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the other offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) – would solve the nation’s long term fiscal problems.
“Washington may be broken, but it will not break me. And you should not let it break you,” Senator Manchin said. “I understand Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid’s desire to prevent our nation’s default, but what we have before us are effectively a short-term fix and a shorter-term fix. Either one might prevent a default – which is a good thing – but neither may prevent a credit downgrade – which is a terrible thing.”
In the speech, Senator Manchin apologized to West Virginians and the American people for the failure of the government to do what is necessary and responsible – come to a commonsense compromise that will not only protect vital programs, like Social Security and Medicare for generations to come, but one that will also create a long-term debt fix to the exploding debt crisis. Since both proposals fail to accomplish these goals, Senator Manchin made clear he could not, in good conscience, vote for short-term solutions that will threaten vital programs and our nation's future. With just days before a possible default, Senator Manchin urged leaders of all parties to put politics aside and seek a true compromise that would guarantee a vote on a long-term fix as part of any plan to raise the debt ceiling.
“As part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling, I would respectfully encourage leaders in the Senate and the House, and the President, to find common ground by committing to a guaranteed vote on a long-term fix. Otherwise, as I said months ago, I simply cannot support a short-term deal that is just a little better than the shorter-term deal,” Senator Manchin said. “I believe such a vote on a long-term fix is possible because many good people have already worked hard to put together the framework and pieces of what such a long-term fix could look like.”
In March, Senator Manchin became the first Democratic Senator to say he would not vote to raise the debt ceiling without a long-term debt fix in place. Credit rating agencies, including Standard and Poor’s, have also made it clear that the United States needs to cut nearly $4 trillion over the next decade or face a downgrade from its AAA credit rating. A downgrade could be just as catastrophic, or maybe even worse, than a default.
As Senator Manchin made clear today, the consequences of a downgrade would be devastating and could lead to a sell-off of stocks, Treasury securities, and U.S. dollars. 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. The shock to our nation’s confidence from our first-ever downgrade could prove more costly than we could even fathom.
To prevent this fate, Senator Manchin urged his colleagues to come together on debt ceiling compromise that guarantees a vote on a long-term debt fix – such as those proposed by the Gang of Six or the Bipartisan Deficit Commission.
“Already, we have seen two promising commonsense proposals from bipartisan groups: the Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission, which presented its report nearly nine months ago, and a similar framework that was presented last week by the bipartisan Gang of Six. In fact, the day the Gang of Six announced their proposed framework was one of my better and prouder days as a Senator,” Senator Manchin said. “For the first time since I have been in the Senate, I saw Democratic and Republican Senators – almost equally divided – come together to put politics aside and agree to the principles of a commonsense solution that recognizes the urgency of fixing our long-term problems now.”
Excerpts of Senator Manchin’s speech are included below:
“Before I say anything, I would like to start off with a profound apology. I want to apologize to every West Virginian and all Americans for the terrible process they have been made to endure and witness.
“With five days before an August 2nd deadline to raise the debt ceiling, this government faces yet another crisis of its own making, and yet it is not we who pay the price for our failures to govern – it is the American people.”
“Now, some will say that Washington is broken and this is the best we can do - but I do not believe that for one moment.
“Washington may be broken, but it will not break me. And you should not let it break you, either.”
“Now, some of my colleagues often remind me that fixing problems as complex as our debt crisis isn’t easy – but with all due respect – it seems like we make it harder than it really needs to be.”
“As I made clear on that day, the choices we make to address our debt now will determine whether the vital programs we all deeply care about – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ programs, education for our children, Head Start – are there for those in need and for decades to come.”
“While I will never question someone’s motivations or their heart, we all have a right to question the strategies of our leaders and colleagues – whether they’re Democrats or Republicans – because these strategies have once again led us to a crisis and the brink of a disaster.”
“After facing dismal credit ratings for far too long and a dark fiscal future, some thought our state’s best days were behind us. But after confronting our fiscal challenges head on, in West Virginia – even during the deepest recession in our lifetimes – we are one of the few states in the nation that has had its credit rating upgraded the last three years in a row. We had surpluses for the last six years in a row.
“We did this in West Virginia by cutting spending, but not cutting vital programs or services. We did this not by raising tax rates, but by ensuring everyone paid their fair share in our state. We did this tackling waste, fraud, and abuse so as to as to ensure we took care of those most in need, not those bent on greed. And by doing this, we helped to restore confidence to the economy of our state – that is a factor that we can’t overestimate.”
“Our nation faces not only a threat of default, but of a downgrade.
“The credit rating agencies, like Standard & Poor’s, have made it clear that the United States needs to cut nearly $4 trillion over the next decade, or they will lose confidence in our long-term ability to pay our bills.
“Yet, in my estimation, neither of the two plans – neither one – that are currently proposed by Republican or Democratic leadership comes close to preventing our nation from being downgraded or actually solving the debt crisis we face.”
“The truth is, both of the plans being discussed and that the Senate may consider – one offered by the leader of the Republican party, Speaker John Boehner; the other offered by the leader of this Chamber and my party, Senator Reid – do not really solve the nation’s long term fiscal problems as presented. ….what we have before us are effectively a short-term fix and a shorter-term fix. Either one might prevent a default – which is a good thing – but neither may prevent a credit downgrade – which is a terrible thing.”
“If we are being honest, neither of these proposals, as they stand today, can prevent a credit rating agency downgrade – an event that would be just as catastrophic, or maybe even worse, than default.
“And I personally know: a government’s climb back from a low credit rating is extremely long and painful.”
“As part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling, I would respectfully encourage leaders in the Senate and the House, and the President, to find common ground by committing to a guaranteed vote on a long-term fix – otherwise, as I said months ago, I simply cannot support a short-term deal that is just a little better than the shorter-term deal.
“With all due respect to my colleagues, I will not look West Virginians in the eye and say: don’t worry, all is good, I saved myself for the 2012 election – but you’re on your own.”
“I believe such a vote on a long-term fix is possible because many good people have already worked hard to put together the framework and pieces of what such a long-term fix could look like. Already we have seen two promising commonsense proposals from bipartisan groups: the Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission, which presented its report nearly nine months ago, and a similar framework that was presented last week by the bipartisan Gang of Six…. Within these two plans, I believe, lies the path our nation can take if we are to get our fiscal house in order. Of course, some will have other ideas, whether from the right or left, and we should listen to them all.”
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