Manchin uncertain on debt vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Joe Manchin doesn’t believe the federal debt extension measure passed by the House on Wednesday adequately addresses the nation’s spending, and he isn’t certain he will support it.

Manchin, D-W.Va., serves as co-chairman of “No Labels,” a bipartisan group that has proposed its own “no budget, no pay” legislation. The No Labels proposal would have withheld lawmakers’ pay if congressional appropriations weren’t approved by Oct. 1, the start of the congressional fiscal year.

The bill before Congress meanwhile, would permit the Treasury to borrow beyond the limits of the federal debt ceiling through May 18 and require Congress to pass a budget by April 15. Under the act, members of a chamber not passing a budget would have their pay withheld.

Manchin said he agrees members of Congress shouldn’t be paid if they fail to pass a budget, but he said the measure House members passed “is not the bill we introduced” and “has too many nuances.” He addressed the issue during a teleconference with state reporters Thursday.

“The real question is, how much longer are we going to kick the can down the road by not facing our budget crisis?” Manchin said. “We’re putting billions and billions of debt on every day – I think it’s $4 billion to $5 billion we’re adding to it. … You’ve got to fix your financial problems. You’ve got to get your financial house in order if you want to do any of the things that need to be done, and you have to set your priorities … I’ve been here two years, and I’ve yet to see us meet a deadline. They just pretend it doesn’t happen. How can we continue to keep anyone’s confidence? I’m willing to make the tough votes to fix the finances.”

Manchin said he is awaiting more debate on the “No Budget, No Pay Act” before deciding whether he will support it.

“It will be a lively debate,” he added. “I am having a hard time confirming I can vote for it when it does not meet the crisis we have. … Right now, I can’t give you a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but I can tell you it doesn’t set well with me.”

In other matters, Manchin said he will support the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as the next secretary of defense after meeting with him this week.

“He assured me that he shares my commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and he stands strongly with our close ally Israel,” Manchin said. “Based on that conversation, I intend to support Chuck Hagel’s nomination.

“Chuck is a combat veteran and foot soldier who has a unique understanding of the challenges faced by our men and women in uniform, and a practical leader who understands the need for common sense in military spending and national security strategy,” he added.

Manchin also denied he is gearing up for a run for the presidency in 2016. He called the idea “just crazy.”