WASHINGTON - A U.S. senator from West Virginia who helped put together a compromise plan to get the U.S. government operational and end the federal shutdown is hopeful the plan will be considered by the Senate leadership.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., held a telephone press conference with reporters from the state Monday afternoon to discuss the bipartisan agreement with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and 10 additional senators, equally divided among Democrats and Republicans, resulting from two weeks of meetings.
The draft bill includes measures to raise the nation's borrowing limit, fund the government through March at the $986 billion sequester limit and mandate budget conferences between the House and Senate to debate budget plans passed by each house that have been stalled over the pass few years in favor of continuing resolutions, which have kept the government operational.
"It is a good offer and we are sharing it with the leadership," Manchin said. "The bill would fund the government and make sure we won't default."
Of the budget conference mandates, Manchin said it would require both sides to meet in the same room to try to work out a plan. He pointed out there has not been a budget conference meeting for five years.
"This puts them in the same room so they can work on their differences and see what they agree on," Manchin said.
The proposal delays the medical device tax component of the Affordable Care Act for two years, which Manchin said would allow companies to better transition into it.
The proposed legislation includes income verification measures to prevent people from defrauding the health care exchanges providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Manchin said other measures would give departments, like the defense department, the flexibility in being able to manage cuts brought on by sequestration if they stay in place. That flexibility was subject to congressional approval with the understanding plans could move forward if Congress failed to act on it.
Manchin said the plan was about 80 percent complete with the remaining 20 percent being worked out in meetings.
The senator said this deal could get the government back into a mode of doing regular business with room to work out a budget plan.
With the 12 senators working on this Manchin said it is a "good nucleus to start with."
"It is time to reopen the government," he said. "It should not have been shut down."
Deals could have been offered Monday evening or sometime today. With procedural votes that are required, Manchin believes the shutdown could end as early as Thursday morning.
Foreign financial officials are looking at what is happening in the American government and it can have far-reaching implications if lawmakers do not reach an agreement, Manchin said.
"We are still the beacon of hope in the financial world," Manchin said. "We need to start acting like the world leaders we are.
"We need to rise to the occasion."