PARKERSBURG - President Obama must take the lead in negotiating a budget resolution between the political parties, a West Virginia senator said Tuesday.
"The bottom line is this, the president is the leader of this great nation and when it comes to an issue of significant national importance, the president must lead. Not the majority leader or speaker, but the president," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a speech on the floor of the Senate.
Manchin, a freshman senator, said he will vote against the Democratic budget proposal that doesn't go far enough with only $6.5 billion in spending reductions and against the Republican House version he said blindly cuts $60 billion from programs with no sense of America's values or priorities.
Both proposals were to be brought up for a vote by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said he wanted to get the votes on the record and show a compromise is needed. Manchin questioned why was the Senate voting on the resolutions knowing neither would pass.
"The more important question is this why are we engaging in this political theater," Manchin said. "Why are we voting on partisan proposals that we know will fail, that we all know don't balance our nation's priorities with the need to get our fiscal house in order?
"Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations, our president, has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for. How does that make sense," Manchin said. "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. This debate will be decided when the president leads these tough negotiations. And right now that is not happening."
Lawmakers are debating operating budgets through the rest of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 in the shadows of a short-term funding measure expiring in two weeks that prevented a government shutdown.
Reid, according to Associated Press, said Republicans in the Senate are avoiding the House GOP proposal cutting domestic agencies an average of 13 percent. Instead Republicans want procedural votes to give them political cover from cuts that include Head Start for preschoolers from poor families and Pell Grants for low-income college students, Reid said.
"Republicans know that once the country sees what's in the fine print, it will run away from it as fast as they can," Reid said. "Now it seems Republicans themselves must have finally read their own budget. Because now even they're running away from it."
The Democrat-proposed budget "utterly ignores our fiscal reality," Manchin said.
"We must turn our financial ship around, but the Senate proposal continues to sail forward as if there's no storm on the horizon," he said.
The Republican plan in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans are in control, is even more flawed, Manchin said.
"Now, I didn't grow up in an America that would carelessly cut Head Start and make the playing field even harder for kids born into poverty," he said. "Our America shouldn't cut funding for veterans, or for border security, or for first responders, or especially for our children without at least discussing the alternatives."
Manchin acknowledged negotiations would be partisan and difficult.
"I know it's not easy. I know that it takes compromise. I know it will be partisan and difficult. I know that everyone will have to give up something and no one will want to relinquish anything," Manchin said. "But that is what the American people are demanding."