Sen. Manchin reflects on fiscal cliff decision

The climactic conclusion of 2012’s fiscal showdown ended with legislation in the nick of time to avert large income tax increases and prevent significant spending cuts for government programs, but for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the high-stakes legislation is only a temporary fix to solving the nation’s long-term debt crisis.

“Not that we did the right thing or the best thing, but we did something,” he said Wednesday during a phone conference with state media. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure 89-8. Less than 24 hours after the bill was passed in the Senate, the House of Representatives passed the bill with a final vote of 257 to 167 on Tuesday.

Manchin voted for the measure, which he termed, “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

“If anything we’ve given a little bit of temporary relief to the markets. I think they rebounded quite well,” Manchin said.

On Wednesday the Wall Street Journal reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced its largest one-day jump in over a year, soaring up 308.41 points, 2.35 percent, in response to Congress’ budget compromise. The Nasdaq composite jumped 3.07 percent or 92.75 points while Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index grew by 36.06 points or 2.53 percent at the close of Wednesday’s markets.

Reflecting on the stock market’s response Manchin added, “I think they’re just surprised that we can do anything together.”

He told reporters during the phone conference Wednesday that his decision to vote for the measure was one of the hardest votes he’s faced since being elected to the Senate in 2010.

“It was one of the most difficult votes I took I was determined to make sure hardworking West Virginians did not face the worst side effects of the cliff,” Manchin said.

The measure raises income taxes for the highest-earning Americans making more than $400,000 as an individual annually or over $450,000 as a couple. Manchin said the tax increase will have no effect on more than 99 percent of West Virginians.

“The good is the senate voted to keep more than 99 percent of West Virginians from facing any tax hikes The bad is we need to do so much more to address our spending cuts and our entitlement reforms and, as I’ve always said, put all of our finances back in order, which this did not do,” Manchin said.

“Our agenda for the 113th Congress, which starts (today), after we’re sworn in is to fix the finances, and that’s going to be the top priority for our agenda.”

Manchin said he will continue to push for spending cuts to reduce the national debt. “You can’t continue to have more than a trillion dollar deficit each year with operation of this government and have a national debt well over $16 trillion and climbing and have anything that is going to give you any certainty and prosperity.”

Positive portions of Tuesday’s bill which Manchin specifically highlighted in his press conference include: child tax credit extension, student loan deduction extension, Bush era tax cut extensions for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning under $450,000; mine rescue team training credit, which credits up to $10,000 for the training of mine rescue team members and mine safety equipment purchases, and Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives money to businesses who hire qualified veterans.

Based on the legislation Congress has enacted, Manchin said the federal government is able to gain $3 trillion in savings. Almost $1 trillion of that amount will come from reductions in future spending from the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act’s sequester will also be implemented this year, which will incur mandatory spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion. According to the Washington Post, the sequestration will begin this year and will finish in 2021 with evenly divided cuts between defense spending and domestic spending occurring yearly.

Manchin said the remaining balance to equal $3 trillion will come from the revenue received from the income tax placed on the highest-earning Americans, which is expected to be over $700 billion.

Although $3 trillion may seem like a very large sum, Manchin said it is certainly not enough to solving the country’s long-term debt crisis.

“We’re still dealing with the politics that are extremely difficult and broken and that is going to be the fiscal cliff and deficit we have to deal with,” he said.