Twelve Senators are reaching across the aisle on a deal to end the government shutdown and increase the federal debt limit before Thursday, the day the country would likely default on its debts if Congress doesn’t act. One of the 12, Senator Joe Manchin said default is not an option.
The bipartisan Senate deal is fairly straightforward: fund the government through the end of the year, raise the country’s debt limit to avoid default, and mandate a conference committee meeting on the budget between the two Houses. Three things Manchin said are “crucial” in order to get the nation moving forward
“The most important thing we can do is make sure we don’t default at all, nor are we going to default,” he said in a conference call with media Monday afternoon.
But Manchin said in the two weeks of negotiations between the Senators, that third element—a conference between the House and Senate—is what stood out to him as the most important part of the deal.
“Our main goal was to get the budget conference in a meeting and look at the differences of the budget and have a full report to Congress,” Manchin said. “This a chance for a bigger deal, a longer deal.”
Congress hasn’t passed a full budget since 2009 and every few months must vote to keep funding the government until a budget deal can be reached, but Manchin said members of both Houses haven’t even come together to discuss their proposed funding bills and that’s what has to change.
“There’s a lot of skeptics that will say that will never happen. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it will or it won’t. What I’m telling you is it’s got to happen sooner or later,” he said, “but this is our best opportunity to get into that and I’m sick as every one else out there going through this scenario every 3 to 6 months. It’s awful, but this one gives us a chance to at least put them into conference.”
The bipartisan deal mandates a conference committee be formed and the two budgets discussed to come up with a solution.
“Will they deal in good faith, I can’t guarantee that, but I can guarantee they’ll get in a room,” he said.
The Senate deal also includes some concessions on the Democratic side.
The medical device tax, which applies to devices like artificial joints and pacemakers, will be delayed for two years to allow companies to transition toward the fee under the Affordable Care Act.
A second compromise was reached for income verification on the healthcare exchange website. It will prevent fraud and ensure only eligible individuals receive their subsidies on the exchange.
“So people can’t come in a fraudulently claim their income and not have proof of that. That made sense to a lot of us,” Manchin added,
Manchin said, however, the specifics of the plan are still up in the air.
He wants to see the government funded until the first of the year, the debt ceiling extended a few months beyond that and a conference committee convened, but said when or for how long those things will happen is up to the President and Congressional leaders as they hash out a final deal.
Manchin expected a deal and an official vote from Congress to come Thursday morning in time to avoid hitting the federal debt ceiling.