Manchin endorses budget deal

PARKERSBURG – A budget agreement reached Tuesday isn’t a long-term solution, but it is movement in the right direction, a West Virginia senator said on Wednesday.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 reached by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is the first semblance of cooperation between the political parties in a long time, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said.

“This is a positive step,” he told reporters from West Virginia in a telephone press conference.

A vote on the agreement, which would prevent another disruption of government services early next year, could come later this week in the House. Manchin said he believes the Senate will approve it.

House Republicans have met in private to review the agreement and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has criticized several groups for panning the deal without seeing it, news outlets have reported.

Manchin was the only lawmaker from West Virginia to say he will support the bill.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Wednesday afternoon were reviewing the agreement, their spokesmen said.

“…and thoughtfully considering the provisions contained within,” Capito spokesman Rebecca Neal said.

The agreement is a mixed bag, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said.

“On the upside, it would help to avoid some harmful spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year, as well as avert a government shutdown in January and prevent looming disruptions in Medicare reimbursements to health care providers, which is essential to ensuring seniors’ access to care,” Rahall said. “I am, however, very concerned that the agreement would allow emergency unemployment benefits to lapse, a glaring defect. I also am worried about ensuring sufficient Medicare reimbursements for West Virginia doctors and hospitals in the long-term. Clearly, there is more work to do.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the agreement “somewhat of a positive step” by addressing the damage from the “sequester’s painful and irrational cuts.”

“The deal is far from perfect, but such is the nature of compromise,” he said. “Most disappointing is the House Republicans’ resistance, which precluded the agreement from extending unemployment benefits for Americans who are currently jobless but diligently looking for work. This is a short-sighted and costly mistake, and one that will leave millions without any of the resources they need to support their families.

“And although the bill raises a modest level of new revenues through user fees that individuals will have to pay, we will not solve our long-term budget issues without significant new tax revenues from the wealthiest Americans,” Rockefeller said.

The act will provide budget certainty through 2014 and 2015 and increase discretionary spending by $40 billion to $1.012 trillion, Manchin said. The deficit will be reduced by between $20 billion and $23 billion over 10 years.

Discretionary spending is about a third of the federal budget and must be approved each year by Congress. The remainder of the budget is mandatory and includes programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

The agreement doesn’t include tax reform to close loopholes and make the rates fairer, Manchin said.

It is not a long-term solution to get finances in order, Manchin said. The can is still being “kicked down the road,” just not as hard, he said.