"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 pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5614.