Cumberland Times-News

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January 2, 2013

Manchin: Months ahead will be tough

CUMBERLAND — Sen. Joe Manchin said the next two months, following the House of Representatives’ approval of a bipartisan Senate deal to avert the “fiscal cliff,” will be tough.

“Hard-working American taxpayers shouldn’t bring home less pay from their jobs just because Congress didn’t do its job,” said Manchin in a news release. “However, the tough votes are still in front of us if we’re going to get our budget under control and put our fiscal house back in order. I am determined to not put our country further in debt, and I will not vote for any future proposals that do that without meaningful deficit reduction.”

The measure preserved Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans who make less than $400,000 per year.

The steep “sequester” budget cuts scheduled to go into effect with the New Year — a $1.2 trillion hit to defense and domestic programs — will be postponed for two months.  

“I will fight to protect the things that are near and dear to us and will look at the things that can be cut,” said Manchin, who noted during a Wednesday press conference that he would be working to ensure that the welfare system isn’t being abused. “I voted for the measure and it was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. I looked at it long and hard and was determined to make sure West Virginia didn’t face the worst aspects of the cliff by having their rates raised. We can’t continue to raise the debt ceiling unless we have a long-term fix.”

The measure prevents a tax hike on more than 99 percent of all West Virginians, according to Manchin.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller said that Americans are sick of the politics.

“The American people are sick and tired of seeing their elected officials bicker over petty politics while they are working hard every day to feed their families and keep or find jobs,” said Rockefeller in a news release. “Our economy will not go into a free fall this week because the fiscal cliff is in fact more of a fiscal slope — the changes are gradual — but the nation needs stability and the opportunity is before us now to fix this.”

Manchin said the measure didn’t put the country’s finances back in order and would probably be back in the same position in two months.

Manchin said the politics are extremely broken.

“Just as importantly, we also need to fix our politics so we don’t find ourselves in such a ridiculous and embarrassing situation again,” said Manchin. “We just need to use some common sense, instead of this Washington nonsense.”

The measure did have some positive aspects, including the saving of the $1,000 child tax credit, funding for student loans and the fact that mining companies will receive tax incentives for miners’ safety equipment, according to Manchin.

Rockefeller, who also voted in favor of the measure, said that it continues unemployment benefits and, in the short-term, protects Medi-care, Medicaid and Social Security.

“This deal is by no means perfect, but it fully protects middle-class tax cuts, reinstates Clinton-era tax rates for the very wealthy, and extends several tax credits that are crucial to low-income families throughout West Virginia,” said Rockefeller in a news release.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who voted against the measure, said it wasn’t the balanced package that President Barack Obama was looking for.

“Rather than reduce spending, this deal allowed for even more increases in the unsustainable spending growth by the federal government,” stated Bartlett in a news release.

“That is why I voted no. Until we truly change the course of our federal government by cutting spending, I don't believe it’s possible to avoid a fiscal catastrophe for younger and future generations of Americans. I could not in good conscience vote to consign my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and those of my constituents in Central and Western Maryland to that bleak prospect.”

The North American energy independence, which eliminates the U.S., Canada and Mexico’s reliance on oil purchased outside the continent; ending the war in Afghan-istan; and addressing cultural violence are on the agenda for the 113th Congress, according to Manchin.

Manchin said he and Sen. John McCain would be working to form a commission similar to the 9/11 Commission because of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to look at gun control and the culture of violence in video games and in the entertainment industry.

“I am a member of the NRA and am I gun owner. I’m not going to vote for anything that will take guns away,” said Manchin. “This commission will give us a place where people can come responsibly and respectfully to the table to make children safer.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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