“We Have a Debt Problem”: Senator Joe Manchin Calls for Deal with McCarthy on Spending Cuts

Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is breaking rank with President Joe Biden on the debt ceiling and is calling on Democrats to work with Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on a compromise to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. 

“Well, we have to work together. It’s going to take — it’s bipartisan. It’s always been bipartisan as far as the debt ceiling,” said Manchin in a recent interview. “I think what we have to do is realize that we have a problem. We have a debt problem.”

GOP House members are expected to use the national debt limit as leverage to push through policy changes, which could shake global markets. For his part, McCarthy is urging spending cuts as a concession to right-leaning conservatives in his hard-fought bid to become Speaker. He is also urging Democrats to participate in negotiations with Republicans. 

The Biden administration and Democrats say Republicans won’t pressure them to pressure them into cutting federal programs. 

“The president has been clear. He will not allow Republicans to take the economy hostage or make working Americans pay the price for their schemes,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, at Wednesday’s briefing. 

Manchin made it clear he wouldn’t agree to go after cuts to crucial social programs to raise the debt ceiling. 

“We’re not getting rid of anything, and you can’t scare the bejesus out of people saying we’re going to get rid of Social Security, we’re going to privatize — that’s not going to happen,” said Manchin. “But we should be able to solidify so the people that have worked and earned it know they’re going to get it. And that’s what we’re talking about.”

Manchin wants bipartisan cuts

Manchin acknowledged impending issues with the nation’s burgeoning debt and said he wants to find ways to make bipartisan cuts. 

“I’ve talked to Kevin McCarthy briefly about that. I’m going to spend more time to find out how we can bring things together. Then we should do that. And that guarantees it comes to the floor for a vote, so the American people see that we have some solutions. It might pass, and it might not.”

Manchin, a moderate Democrat, said he wants his party to try to work out a deal with GOP members to avert a U.S. debt default, which could be catastrophic, which puts him at odds with the president. 

Democrats and Republicans are currently in a stand-off over increasing the debt ceiling. The move could unsettle financial markets as early as June, when the country could default on payment obligations. 

Senator Manchin said he wants to combine the creation of special commissions to examine shoring up Medicare and Social Security trust funds, along with another to work on reducing the overall U.S. debt with the debt ceiling increase package. 

“We have to work together. It has to be bipartisan, and it has always been bipartisan as far as the debt ceiling. I think what we have to do is realize we have a problem; we have a debt problem,” said Manchin.

It is unclear whether the Senator’s proposal would go far enough for Republicans in the House. However, the Senator from West Virginia said he planned to continue to speak to McCarthy.

The Biden administration insists the debt ceiling be increased without any conditions, and officials have said they will not negotiate. 

Manchin was a critical vote who forced the president to pare down his economic plan and said he believed Biden would eventually negotiate. 

“I think they will, I really do,” Manchin said.