Posted originally on the CTH on January 22, 2023 | Sundance
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin appears with his good friend Chuck Todd for an interview about ongoing political events to include the debt ceiling.
As Manchin and Todd finish each other’s sentences, the discussion hits on the upcoming debt ceiling battle. Manchin surprisingly pulls out the purple card and states the super-secret thing that no one in DC will admit. The last federal budget was signed into law September 2008, for fiscal year 2009. From that moment forward, there has been nothing except continuing resolutions and omnibus spending bills [SIDENOTE: this approach was by design by Obama/Pelosi].
This 12-year timeline includes the entire tenure of House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Budget Committee Chair, who now uses the absence of the budget as a tool to advance his outside impression that DC is fiscally reckless, insert pearl clutching here. I digress. Manchin is positioning himself as the ‘purple’ option for 2024. WATCH (or read):
[Transcript] – CHUCK TODD: And joining me now is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, welcome back to Meet the Press.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Chuck, it’s always good to be with you.
CHUCK TODD: Look, I want to get into the debt ceiling. I want to get into all this stuff. But I — we got some developments overnight with those classified documents, an FBI search — the White House said it was coordinated with the FBI. But we’ve now had an FBI search of former President Trump. Now we have an FBI search into President Biden’s residence. What’s your assessment of how the president has handled the situation?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, I mean, it’s just hard to believe that in the United States of America, we have a former president and a current president that are basically in the same situation. How does this happen? You know, only thing I can tell you, Chuck, is when I go into the SCIF with the secure documents, they always ask, “Are you clean?” when you walk out. They want to make sure you’re not carrying anything out. You know, and it might be a mistake. You might just put it in your other papers, but you double-check right there. To be held accountable and responsible is what we all are. And to put those in unsecured spaces is irresponsible.
CHUCK TODD: Do you see similarities, or do you see more differences in how President Trump versus how President Biden —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I’m not going to make —
CHUCK TODD: — has handled this?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: — that decision, but I think that Merrick Garland did the right thing by putting the special counsel.
CHUCK TODD: You do?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: And I think that we should wait until the special counsel, rather than making this a political circus. Let them find out the facts. What — was one more damaging? Are they both about the same, did not cause any problem, or is one more reckless and irresponsible than the other? I can’t answer that question, but I think the special counsel will do a better job than the politicians and the political circus that is going to follow.
CHUCK TODD: President Biden said he had no regrets in how he handled this. Do you have any advice for him on how he should handle this going forward?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Oh, I think he should have a lot of regrets. Yeah. I would —
CHUCK TODD: What are those —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I would think that. I said, “Whoever’s responsible.” I mean, if I hold people accountable, and I use — whether my chief of staff or, you know, my staff, who, that were doing this, that I’m looking at, then I’m going to hold someone accountable. But basically, the buck stops with me.
CHUCK TODD: So you think he should be out there, “Look, I mess — I messed up –”
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: That’s all. Just say —
CHUCK TODD: “Maybe I didn’t do it.” Just say it —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: — “I made a mistake.”
CHUCK TODD: Just fall on your sword here?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: We’re all human.
CHUCK TODD: Yeah.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: We make mistakes. I can tell you I don’t think anyone intended, he sure didn’t intend for it to fall in wrong hands and use it against our country. I know they didn’t intend that to happen. Could it have happened? I don’t know. And yeah, you just might as well say, “Listen, it’s irresponsible. It was something we should’ve had a better check and balance on.”
CHUCK TODD: Now, former President Trump defied a subpoena. So in that sense, the, the way each has handled it is different.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yes.
CHUCK TODD: Do you acknowledge that?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Absolutely. Much different than the other. One’s saying, “Okay, I hope I didn’t make any mistakes.
CHUCK TODD: Right.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: — I hope no one’s compromised. I hope we didn’t hurt our country.” And the other one says, “Ugh, no. I know it didn’t. Believe me.” Well, you know what? What they said, verify? You have to verify.
CHUCK TODD: Trust but verify?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Trust but verify. Let’s find out. And that’s what the special counsel’s —
CHUCK TODD: And that’s what you want here? Both special counsels to sort of resolve this?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: First of all, every one of us, in our life, have to be held accountable and responsible for our actions because people want accountability. And they want basically when you’re held accountable, are you responsible or not? If you are, would you — can you fix that? Did you make a mistake? Fine. You’re, you know —
CHUCK TODD: And that’s what you think – the president needs to get out there and just get in front of this?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Cicero, Cicero said, “To err is human.” You’re a human being. You’re going to make mistakes. Did you intend to make it? Did you intend to harm somebody? Did you intend to basically do an irresponsible thing? I don’t think — hopefully, neither one of them did.
CHUCK TODD: Right.
SEN. JOE MANCHIIN: But it sure turned out to be irresponsible.
CHUCK TODD: Let’s talk about the debt ceiling. You’re — as always, you’re trying to find a compromise, middle ground.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yeah.
CHUCK TODD: I know your instinct here. But why should Republicans get the benefit of the doubt on the debt ceiling here, considering that it’s a — that they’re sort of manufacturing a crisis that’s a bit unnecessary right now?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, first of all, if one side thinks that the other one’s more responsible for the debt at $31.4 trillion, that’s, that is totally not accurate and it’s deceptive. We’re all responsible. We’ve got a $31.4 trillion debt. It’s a runaway debt, and no one’s holding themselves accountable. And basically, I think you said it, use the budget process. I’ve been here 12 years. We haven’t had a budget yet.
CHUCK TODD: Yeah. I — that’s what I don’t get here.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: We haven’t had a budget yet.
CHUCK TODD: And that’s what I question —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yeah, you should.
CHUCK TODD: — you want to do this special committee here.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I’m —
CHUCK TODD: And I’m sitting here going, “Why add more “bureaucracy?” We have a budget committee. We have two budget committees. We have a Joint Committee on Taxation. We have all these different committees that have already been created to deal with this process. Why can’t we use the congressional bureaucracy that exists?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: We have 12 appropriations committees —
CHUCK TODD: They’re —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: They’re supposed to do their job. Why don’t you basically put a time certain on —
CHUCK TODD: Right.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: — what you can do and what you can’t and when you do it? I can’t speak for that. I was a former governor of the state of West Virginia.
CHUCK TODD: Right.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I was responsible for a balanced budget amendment and basically staying within the realms of my Constitution. So, you know, I met every week. Every week like clockwork they walked in my office on a Tuesday or Wednesday and sit down and go over it. You’re either going to be — have to make some cuts now, make some adjustments now, so we end the year with a balanced budget or a surplus. There’s nothing that holds us accountable. Nothing at all. We can say, “Oh, we’re going to do it.” As I’ve said before, 12 years, haven’t had a budget. That’s ridiculous.
CHUCK TODD: So, let me — you want to do this sort of, that you and Senator Romney, to have committee that deals with the trust fund issues. But right now, neither party wants to touch – I mean, in that sense, Donald Trump came out, and certainly Democrats, nobody wants to touch Social Security or Medicare.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, first of all —
CHUCK TODD: So how do you separate those two out and deal with our fiscal problems?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Why would you scare the bejesus out of people that are basically going to say — in West Virginia, I’ve got 60% of my population that that’s all they have is Medicare and Social Security. You think I’m going to go down that path and put them in jeopardy? No. But there are so much other things, the basically wasteful spending, that can be corralled in without scaring the bejesus, depending on what political side you’re on.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you about wasteful spending, because one of the three most hypocritical words I hear are “waste, fraud and abuse.” Right. Everybody says, “Oh, waste, fraud, and abuse.”
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: And it’s all there. It’s all there.
CHUCK TODD: Okay, but waste, fraud, and abuse aren’t going to balance the budget, ok? At the end of the day, there are going to have to be choices that have to be made. What is something that ought to be on, on, in the decision of, “You know, maybe we’re spending too much”?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, we know we’re spending too much because we’re not balancing our budget and —
CHUCK TODD: But on what?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: — we have more debt. The bottom line is, it’s in the eyes of the beholder. That’s the problem that we have. Five-hundred-and-thirty-five people said, “Well, yeah. What you’re doing is wasteful, Chuck. I think you ought to cut that.” And you’re going to say, “Okay, Joe. How about yours?”
CHUCK TODD: But your, your spending that you think is mandatory, another person thinks is wasteful or abuse.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yeah. Just think, for every dollar, just get it down, break it down to the dollar. Is there any savings within that dollar you think that is wasteful or abuse that we could at least have a target to set? Is it a penny? Is it five pennies? Is it a nickel? Where is it?
CHUCK TODD: But here’s what gets lost here, is nobody will put anything on the table. Everybody says, “We’ve got to cut spending.” Well, what? And nobody wants to articulate —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, the process —
CHUCK TODD:– the what.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Chuck, you hit it dead on the head. The process isn’t working. How come we’re not held accountable to have – to have the appropriation bills done at a certain time before the end of the fiscal year?
CHUCK TODD: You tell me.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, that’s what I —
CHUCK TODD: I mean –
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: You know –
CHUCK TODD: – what does Chuck Schumer say? What does Mitch McConnell
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: You know what happens? It rolls over into an omnibus bill at the end and everything’s thrown into it. “Okay. Here we got it, guys. That’s it.” It makes no sense.
CHUCK TODD: So what should – it sounds like you actually think the debt ceiling is a moment we should use to focus on —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, if you’re going to use the debt ceiling for anything except for theatrics, okay, which is what probably might happen for a while, we’re going to pass the debt ceiling. You are exactly correct.
CHUCK TODD: Right.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: It has to pass. You know, we have the currency of it, you know – the good faith of the United States dollar and the currency of the world. You just can’t let it default and basically hold us in jeopardy from where we stand in the world, world order. With that being said, is how do you get to it? Do you use this moment? Do you come to a reason – responsibility? What are we paying for interest now? For ten years, it was zero. It was funny money. Were not – you know, it doesn’t put any burden. We’re just raising debt, but we’re not basically harming how we have to meet that debt through our interest payments. Now we’re talking real money on an interest basis. We’re almost, up to what our defense budget is, paying in interest.
CHUCK TODD: I guess I come back to, and I don’t think you have the answer either, which is what is the moment to force this conversation?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: This is a moment if, if Kevin McCarthy coming in – coming in new says, “Okay, this is – it’s serious,” and he takes it from the standpoint. And he knows —
CHUCK TODD: What does he need to do that you would take him seriously in this?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, you know, Chuck —
CHUCK TODD: Do you know what I mean by that? Like, how do you know when he’s being serious, and how do you when he’s paying politics?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line is he has a hell of a – heck of a political hand that’s not, not very good right now. He’s not holding a lot, if you will. And he has ten or 12 that’s pretty much out there. He has to make a decision how he wants to govern and how he ought to these next two years in this 118th Congress. You know – I just – it was amazing. I just saw that the Ohio legislature, I don’t know if you paid any attention to that —
CHUCK TODD: I did. Yeah.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: The Ohio legislature, which is Republican-controlled –
CHUCK TODD: Yeah.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: – basically chose their new speaker, a Republican, with as many, if not more votes, from the Democrats because they wanted someone they can work with. That’s a coalition. Why can’t we put coalitions together here?
CHUCK TODD: Well, that’s —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: The moderate, centrist Democrats coming over and working, whoever’s the majority, and saying, “You don’t have to bow and cow-tail to the extremes.”
CHUCK TODD: Yeah. You don’t have to worry about primaries. A lot of your colleagues have to worry about primaries. Isn’t that why this —
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Let me tell you —
CHUCK TODD – doesn’t happen?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: – one more thing. I’ve got to be honest with you, Chuck. If it’s all about the election, the next election, you know, that’s the worst thing that could happen to us.
CHUCK TODD: You just came from Davos.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yeah.
CHUCK TODD: There’s a moment, I don’t know if you realized, that went viral between you and Senator Sinema. I want to show the moment here. I want to ask you about it. You guys are high-fiving. I think we’ll show it again here. It was right after she was talking about the filibuster.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yeah.
CHUCK TODD: Is that what you were high-fiving about?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Yeah, that was – I think, you know, after that. I saw her hand go up and I said, “Sure” because here, the two of us are committed to protecting the filibuster, which I think protects checks and balances on the executive branch. So if you have a Democrat, Democrat, Democrat – president, House and Senate – and you have a strong president, basically leader of the party, then you don’t have a check and balance because I can guarantee you the House and Senate will roll wherever the president wants. I – and I’ve said this before. I appreciate the Republican senators and the leadership of the minority leader at that time, McConnell, majority leader at that time – with Donald Trump every day beating on him, “Get rid of the filibuster.” You’ve got 53, 54 Republicans, and he would not. And I appreciate that. And I told Harry Reid we should not have done it when we did it in 2013. But to come back now, the checks and balances aren’t there. It makes and forces them to work together. Think what we’ve accomplished in the 117th, the most divided Congress we’ve ever had, and we did more substantial bills, I think that’s going to be transformational.
CHUCK TODD: You think those first two years of Biden and this Democratic Congress is going to be historic?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I think it’s going to be transformational and historical, yes, because here you had a bipartisan infrastructure bill we haven’t done for years.
CHUCK TODD: Yeah.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: You had then on top of that the CHIPS Act, which will bring manufacturing back so we don’t have supply chains that we’re depending on that aren’t loyal and trustworthy. And then we have the Inflation Reduction Act, which is going to give us – it’s been misaligned because this administration basically said it’s environmental, environmental, environmental. That bill is designed to be energy security, Chuck. And energy security is exactly what we need.
CHUCK TODD: And you’re frustrated that the White House won’t say the phrase “energy security”?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: They will not use the word, and they haven’t. I’m begging you all, please. Energy security. We have to have fossil. We do it better and cleaner than anywhere in the world. And we can be energy secured for ten years, and also be able to invest in technology of the future.
CHUCK TODD: Is this an agenda you can run for reelection on in West Virginia?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Oh, most certainly because we’re seeing right now, I’ve got a battery plant coming in. I’ve got basically hydrogen coming in that direction. We’ve got expansion. And we’re raising our coal with carbon capture sequestration. We’ve got basically methane capturing using gas. We have people that are fighting continuously. And you have to have the pipeline to move this product. And it’s going to be needed. If not, you’re going to end up like Europe. And that’s where I didn’t want to rub it into them, but Europe took an approach that they’re going to say, “We’re going to have cap-and-trade.” And we’re going to be basically charging you a carbon tax.” I’ve said, “I’m not going to support that and vote for it because I think it doesn’t work.” So I took the approach, and basically we wrote this bill with incentives. And it was working. And that’s why they were all upset. That’s why the chancellor and that’s why presidents of other countries were very upset on this bill and concerned about it.
CHUCK TODD: If you run for office in 2024, are you going to run as a Democrat?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Chuck, I haven’t made a decision what I’m going to do in 2024. I’ve got two years ahead of me now to do the best I can for the state and for my country.
CHUCK TODD: What are – what’s on the table? Is reelection on the table?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Everything’s on the table.