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Manchin blasts upcoming Senate recess

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, criticized his fellow members of  Congress on Thursday for going out of session until after Election Day without passing any major budget legislation.

"We have had 12 continuing resolutions in the two years since I have been here. That is not fixing anything," Manchin said during a telephone news conference.

Before the Senate goes out of session this weekend, it is likely to pass the 13th continuing resolution to extend the federal budget. The House of Representatives is also set to adjourn in the next few days.

Manchin said he will vote against the continuing resolution whenever it comes up before the Senate adjourns.

Manchin believes the federal budget has deteriorated steadily since Bill Clinton left the presidency in January 2001, after he served two terms. 

"We got totally off track, with tax cuts, two wars and the expansion of prescription drug benefits for Medicare recipients - none of which were paid for," Manchin said during his speech on the Senate floor.

"The 10-year $5.6 trillion surplus forecast in 2001 has become a debt of more than $16 trillion. That's a swing of almost $22 trillion in one decade. It's simply mind-boggling."

Manchin criticized "sequestering" proposals, which he said would cut all federal programs -- discretionary and non-discretionary programs -- equally.

In August 2011, Manchin voted for the Budget Control Act, which Congress passed after months of wrangling over the federal budget and the first credit downgrade for the United States in decades.

The agreement allowed Congress to raise the debt ceiling, which the Republican-led House had refused to do unless it was coupled with billions of dollars in spending cuts. Manchin also voted against raising the debt ceiling limit earlier in 2011, saying the country needed a long-term financial fix.

Under the Budget Control Act, if a debt committee made up of members of Congress did not reach agreement on how to reduce the debt, the "sequestration" cuts would be triggered automatically in January 2013. The committee did not reach an agreement, and so the cuts are now scheduled to happen.

"Sequestration is certainly not a smart way to cut the defense budget. We need to make sure that we have the strongest, toughest, best-equipped military in the world," Manchin said during his floor speech on Thursday.

"But we've ended one war and we're winding down another one. Those wars doubled our defense budget in the last decade.  Surely we can use some of that money to start rebuilding America."

But even if automatic cuts did go into effect on Jan. 2, the national security budget will still be more than $600 billion in 2013 and still account for 40 percent of all the world's military spending.

During his press conference, Manchin criticized many of his fellow legislators, who he said are far more focused on the November elections than on taking action to reduce the national debt, which recently topped $16 trillion.

"I want to stay here and not go back campaigning," Manchin said. "This country has had challenges in the past. We have had cycles of challenges, but we have been able to overcome them.

"Today, many people are more worried about their political party and themselves than they are about the next generation."

In his race for re-election, Manchin faces Republican John Raese and Mountain Party member Bob Henry Baber. Several national political observers have rated the seat as safe for Manchin.

"We will be gone for six or seven weeks. We could stay here for at least three weeks. Fixing the financial mess that we are in is bigger than any election we are in," Manchin said.

He praised the transportation legislation passed earlier this year as "truly bipartisan."

"Why can't we take the same approach to other government programs? We need to stay here and work."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5614.


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