The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 11, 2013

Manchin doesn’t expect U.S. to default on debts

Sen. Joe Manchin said he doesn’t expect the United States to default on its debt, despite the looming Oct. 17 deadline and the acrimonious relations between Republicans and Democrats that led to a partial shutdown of the federal government.

If lawmakers don’t vote by Oct. 17 to allow the nation to borrow more money (raise the debt ceiling by selling Treasury bonds), the country will not be able to pay its current bills on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and others.

“There’s not going to be a default,” Manchin said. “I believe the adults will start acting like adults and speaking to each other about adult situations.

“I think we’ll be able to work something out,” he said.

The current debt ceiling is $16.7 trillion, but the government passed that ceiling in May and the Treasury Department found other ways to continue borrowing.

Raising the debt ceiling again won’t increase the nation’s debt, according to financial experts as reported by other media sources, but it will allow the government to pay its existing bills. Those bills exist whether the debt ceiling is raised or not.

Manchin explained that the failure of lawmakers to negotiate and agree on a budget has placed the nation in jeopardy.

He urged both parties to come together and to “behave like adults.”

“This craziness is shutting down our government,” Manchin, a Democrat, said. “There’s things I disagree strongly with this administration and this president, but I don’t make 300 plus million people endure the pain of this process up here.”

Manchin said the nation’s debt and the threat of default is a continual concern for lawmakers — not something that just started with the shutdown.

“If I continue to raise the debt, it doesn’t fix the problem we have with debt,” he said. “I sure don’t want the country to default, nor do I think the country will default, but sooner or later, we’re going to have to be serious about fixing the debt in this nation.”

He added that shutting down the federal government isn’t helping to solve the budget problem or reduce debt.

“We’re going to have to have the adults we have in this building in Congress start acting like adults, and speaking to each other like adults, about the adult problems we have to fix.

“It’s our problem.”

Manchin suggested that Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is “holding the nation hostage” to get the Affordable Care Act out of the budget — a move Manchin said is impossible to do during this fiscal year.

“First of all, when you’re talking about finances, and finances are what we should be talking about ... I don’t agree to throw every social issue in there,” he said. “You think I wouldn’t want to talk about the way the lack of an energy policy ... and what it’s done to the coal industry?

“I don’t think this is the place to do it,” he said. “We should be talking about how do we fix our finances.

“A lot of Republicans, my friends and colleagues on the other side, think it’s wrong, too,” he added.

House Republicans on Thursday proposed a six-week raise in the debt ceiling as a way of avoiding default but wanted negotiations with Democrats before agreeing to end the government shutdown.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated that President Obama would definitely sign a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks and would consider agreeing to a short-term increase in the debt limit, even if Republicans refused to address the partial government shutdown.

It is unclear whether the government shutdown will be prolonged, without the threat of the Oct. 17 deadline looming.

—  E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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