WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Joe Manchin spelled out his support for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 during a media conference call Monday.
Manchin, D-W.Va., said he will throw his weight behind the budget deal drafted by Democrat Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, which would set a budget for 2014 and 2015.
Manchin said part of what appeals to him about the act is that it is an attempt at bipartisanship. Manchin said he is hopeful that it could lead to future teamwork between Democrats and Republicans.
"This is a building block to a bigger deal," said Manchin. "Unfortunately, with the way things go around here, it may be nine months to one year before we see one.
"It's a start," he added. "I think that, with this deal, we are headed in the right direction. I'm going to stay positive."
The Bipartisan Budget Act would reduce the deficit by $20-23 billion "while also replacing some across-the-board sequester cuts in 2014 and 2015 with targeted reforms and more thoughtful spending cuts," according to a Manchin press release.
The act includes $63 billion in sequestration relief split between defense and non-defense discretionary spending, $85 billion in mandatory savings and non-tax revenue through 2022 and 2023, and $20-23 billion in net deficit reduction over the next ten years.
The legislation also contains some additional provisions, including an attempt to rein in waste, fraud and abuse of social and benefit programs. It aims to improve the collection of unemployment insurance overpayments, preventing inmates from receiving improper benefits from the federal government, and canceling unobligated balances with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury that are no longer needed.
The budget cutbacks have Manchin's approval.
"These cuts are happening to things like Medicaid and are focused on waste fraud and abuse," he said. "There are no cuts to benefits."
Manchin also voiced his support for a provision that will help the U.S. work toward energy independence by increasing access to off-shore energy resources.
One thing Manchin said is absent from the legislation is tax reform.
"We have to face the realization that we've got to have tax reform," said Manchin. "We've got multi-billionaires paying 13 percent. There's something wrong with that. We've got to change this.
"I also want corporations to pay their fair share and to make sure they are not taking jobs off-shore. I'm not begrudging millionaires."
Other provisions within the legislation include federal retirement and health care reform, such as increases in federal employee contribution by 1.3 percentage points for new employees, meaning state employees in West Virginia would contribute 4.5 percent of their gross salary to the West Virginia Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Also included are amendments to a mineral leasing act to require states receiving revenue payments for mining on federally owned land to help pay the cost of managing the mineral leases.
Manchin said that he expects the legislation to be resolved by this weekend, though no official vote has been set.
"It's been hard to run a country the way we have been running it, with continuing resolutions," he said. "I personally wanted to make a bigger deal, and we will have to eventually. But for now, we're seeing enough favorable support from both Democrats and Republicans to broker a much larger deal. Right now there seems to be enough support to pass this and keep the government open."
Manchin also provided some thoughts on the Affordable Care Act.
"I was pushing for this to be a transitional year, not a working year with fines and penalties," Manchin said. "I wanted to see if we could find products that give people the coverage they need."
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