The lawmaker’s remarks came after Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) recited President George Washington’s Farewell Address on the Senate floor, a tradition that the upper chamber has maintained for more than 160 years to commemorate the founding father’s birthday. Manchin referenced the distaste Washington held for partisan factions as he exhorted Congress to address the national debt, which now surpasses $31.5 trillion.
“Washington warned of the dangers of putting the will of a political party ahead of the will of the nation,” Manchin commented. “Washington warned against the accumulation of debt and encouraged us to ‘cherish public credit as a very important source of strength and security.’ And yet here we are today, watching party politics and out-of-control spending threaten the very foundation of our great nation.”
The comments come as the federal debt ceiling, an arbitrary cap on the national debt established by Congress, exceeded the statutory limit of nearly $31.4 trillion earlier this year, prompting Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to launch “extraordinary measures” intended to fund the government through the early summer. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are presently engaged in the early stages of negotiations to address the debt limit and decrease long-term spending; each have said that they will not consider reforms to Social Security and Medicare, raising questions as to whether meaningful spending cuts will be possible since the two programs constitute nearly half of the federal budget.
Manchin, widely regarded as a centrist, noted that excessive federal spending has been a problem under Republican and Democratic administrations alike: former President Donald Trump added $7.5 trillion to projected debt levels through his legislative agenda and executive orders, while President Joe Biden has added $5 trillion to projected debt levels. Not considering the stimulus measures passed by both chief executives during the lockdown-induced recession implies an added debt burden of $4 trillion for the former and $2.5 trillion for the latter.
“My Democratic friends don’t want to say a word about our out-of-control spending and are outright refusing to even talk to Republicans about reasonable, responsible reforms. They want to pass a ‘clean’ debt ceiling bill without a commitment to fix anything,” Manchin continued. “My Republican friends refuse to offer any specifics, and some have recklessly threatened default, which is something that absolutely has to be off the table. We will never solve this problem by each party running in the opposite direction. We will only be able to change course by coming together, embracing common sense, and finding common ground.”
Manchin added that the government must get its “financial house in order” just like “every family has to do around their kitchen table” on a regular basis.
“Our national debt weakens our economy, it weakens our national security, it weakens the trust Americans have in their government, and it weakens our role in the world. Fortunately, we still have time this year to prevent this catastrophic financial forecast,” he continued. “I am asking all of you to join me in calling for an honest budget, without the accounting gimmicks and tricks, a short-term deal to bring down our out of control spending right now, this year, and a plan to deal with our longer-term fiscal challenges.”