Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Sunday that it’s a “mistake” for the White House to want Democrats to deal with the debt ceiling without negotiating with congressional Republicans.
“I think it’s a mistake because we have to negotiate. This is a democracy that we have. We have a two-party system, if you will, and we should be able to talk and find out where our differences are. And if they are irreconcilable, then you have to move on from there and let people make their decisions,” Manchin, a key Senate moderate, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
“Using the debt ceiling and holding it hostage hasn’t worked in the past,” Manchin continued, adding that he “respectfully” disagrees with his party’s No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, on not negotiating with Republicans.
“Every American has to live within a budget. If they don’t, they’re in trouble financially. Every business that’s successful has to live within a budget. Every state has to live within a budget. Shouldn’t the federal government have some guardrails that, say, ‘Hey, guys … you’re overreaching here and you’re overspending?’ But then pick your priorities. That’s all,” he added.
The US hit the debt ceiling set by Congress on Thursday, forcing the Treasury Department to start taking “extraordinary measures” to keep the government paying its bills and escalating pressure on Capitol Hill to avoid a catastrophic default.
The battle lines for the high-stakes fight have already been set. Hard-line Republicans, who have enormous sway in the House because of the party’s slim majority, have demanded that lifting the borrowing cap be tied to spending reductions. Manchin suggested Sunday he was open to spending cuts.
The White House, however, has countered that it will not offer any concessions or negotiate on raising the debt ceiling. And with the solution to the debt ceiling drama squarely in lawmakers’ hands, fears are growing that the partisan brinksmanship could result in the nation defaulting on its debt for the first time ever – or come dangerously close to doing so.
GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania said Sunday on Fox News that the White House position against negotiating with House Republicans on spending cuts, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, is “very irresponsible.” He said the first step in addressing the debt ceiling situation is for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to sit down with Biden.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, said in the same interview that he believes the White House will ultimately sit down with McCarthy, which he called “a good thing.”
Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer are the co-chairs of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House.
As to whether Social Security and Medicare should be part of these negotiations, Manchin shared his interest in wanting to create a committee that would make the two programs “more financially secure and stable.” But he said no one who currently receives these benefits should receive any cuts.
“No cuts to anybody that’s receiving their benefits, no adjustments to that. They’ve earned it. They paid into it. Take that off the table,” Manchin said. “But everyone’s using that as a leverage.”
The senator indicated he was open to raising the income cap for Social Security taxes.
“I’m open to basically raising – the easiest and quickest thing we can do is raise the cap,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manchin on Sunday also offered support for fellow Senate moderate Krysten Sinema, calling her a “formidable candidate” for reelection in 2024.
Sinema announced last month she was leaving the Democratic Party and registering as a political independent, fueling fresh interest from Arizona Democrats to challenge her next year.
“I would think that she needs to be supported again, yes, because she brings that independent spirit,” Manchin said.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Sarah Fortinsky and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.