Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin Monday said he will oppose extending the federal government’s debt limit unless it is part of a broader plan to deal with financial issues.
Speaking at the University of Charleston, Manchin, a former governor who has been at odds with his own party before, challenged Democrats and Republicans to find common ground on the budget.
“We must get our fiscal house in order,” the West Virginia senator said in remarks released by his office. “We cannot make budgets based on the next election, they must be for the next generation.”
Though he urged his fellow lawmakers to take a longer view, elections, as well as policy, are very much part of the political equation. Manchin won a special election last November to fill out the last two years of the term of late Sen. Robert Byrd and has to run again in 2012, a presidential year.
Obama in 2008 lost West Virginia to GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, the first time in almost a century that a Democratic contender has won the presidency without carrying the state. Despite his efforts to stake out some more conservative positions than his party, Manchin will likely face a tough race in 2012 with Obama at the top of the ticket.
That electoral reality might also help illuminate Manchin’s recent criticism that the president has failed to exert leadership on budget issues. In a floor speech earlier this month, Manchin called on Obama to be more of a force on negotiations to keep the federal government funded.
“The truth of the matter is that this debate, as important as it is, will not be decided by House Republicans and Senate Democrats negotiating with each other -- or past each other,” Manchin said. “This debate will be decided when the president leads these tough negotiations. And, right now, that is not happening.”
There is a trio of budget issues looming over Congress. The bodies are currently arguing over a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past April 8 and for the rest of the fiscal year. The Houses also are dealing with Obama’s new budget request. In both battles, Republicans are seeking substantial cuts that most Democrats are resisting.
The administration, led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, is also seeking to have the federal government’s debt ceiling raised, a separate financial issue that has been drawn into the broader budget debate. The current ceiling is expected to run out sometime between mid-April and the end of May.
Manchin made his comments as part of a weeklong swing through his state.