CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last March, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the first Senate Democrat to announce he would vote against raising the federal debt ceiling "without a long-term fix in place."
On Thursday, Manchin voted for legislation that would have blocked a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, allowing the national debt to reach $16.4 trillion by the end of 2012. The measure lost by a vote of 52-44.
For the first time since World War II, Manchin said, U.S. debt exceeds the nation's annual gross domestic product.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has consistently supported raising the debt ceiling to help reinvigorate the economy.
"Failing to raise the debt ceiling," Rockefeller said, "would lead to a weaker economy, slash American jobs, hurt people's retirement savings, and raise interest rates on loans and credit cards. It is not an option."
Thursday's vote will allow the debt ceiling to rise automatically, without any additional congressional action, throughout 2012.
Manchin and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., were the only two Democrats among the 44 senators who voted against the $1.2 trillion increase.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., was the only Republican who joined 49 Democrats in supporting the increase, along with two independents: Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.
On Thursday, Rockefeller said, "Last summer, the argument advanced by some who advocated having the United States default on our debts caused our market to spiral out of control.
"Thankfully, Democrats and Republicans finally agreed to raise the debt ceiling in three steps until 2013. This new bill would undermine that compromise.