WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it would be an “understatement” to say U.S. Congress will be busy when lawmakers return Tuesday from their August recess.
Among what both chambers will consider includes a spending plan, a motion to raise the debt ceiling, tax reform and recovery aid for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Manchin told MetroNews following a job announcement in South Charleston last week he has high expectations for what policies lawmakers will discuss.
“I’m always optimistic,” he said.
Operations by the federal government are funded through Sept. 30. If no additional plan is passed, certain portions of the government will be forced to shut down. President Donald Trump added an additional hurdle for lawmakers during a rally in Phoenix last month when he said he wanted funding for the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Manchin said Trump should consider the 2013 Senate immigration bill rather than threaten lawmakers with one of the main ambitions of his presidential campaign.
“It was really a good piece of legislation that set a policy that I thought was fair and tough for America,” he said. “I hope he would look at that. That would much more productive.”
The bill would have doubled the number of overall U.S. Border Patrol agents, required the construction of 700 miles of pedestrian fencing on the Untied States’ southern border and mandated employers use a verification system for all job applicants to prevent those living in the country without legal permission from gaining employment. It also would have allowed millions of eligible people the opportunity to seek permanent residency status or citizenship while also having to pay thousands in fines and back taxes.
Manchin voted for the legislation with his Democratic colleagues and 14 Republican senators. The U.S. House of Representatives never voted on the measure.
In regards to the debt ceiling, Manchin said he could accept raising it to an extent
“If they roll that in to where they can show that we can pay through doing a revitalization of the tax code, I’m fine,” he noted. “Just saying we’re going to raise the debt ceiling and do nothing about the long-term debt, that’s pretty hard to swallow.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday that Hurricane Harvey could be needed to raise the debt ceiling forward before the Sept. 29 deadline, but he would prefer a clean bill.
He later said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” he could not see a situation where a debt ceiling agreement was not tied to disaster aid.
“Right now, we’re at $20 trillion dollars,” Manchin said. “If we do nothing and we continue the trend we’re in, we’ll be at $31 trillion by 2027.”
Manchin was one of three Democrats who did not sign a letter from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., setting conditions for tax reform legislation, including not shielding any legislation from a filibuster and not passing new tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota also did not sign the letter.
According to Manchin, he has contacted the president’s staff about ideas regarding individual and corporate tax rates.
Manchin added two additional issues he will be considering infrastructure — an interest shared by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va — and health care.
Manchin did not get into any specific projects he would like to address, but said whatever is passed must be paid for in some manner.
“Bottom line is how are you going to pay for it?” he said. “There’s some people that say, ‘No new taxes, no nothing.’ Well, you can’t pay for something for nothing.”
Capito said last month she felt the issue could be both a job-creator and embraced by Republicans and Democrats.
Before the Senate began its August recess, it rejected the “skinny repeal” of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Manchin was one of the 51 senators who voted “nay” the bill, which would have repealed “Obamacare’s” individual and employer mandates and allowed states to apply for waivers on current health care regulations.
Three Republicans — John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — were against the “skinny repeal.”
Manchin released a statement following the vote saying “Obamacare” has to be improved through bipartisan means.
“We’ve got to fix it,” he said last week.
Manchin added Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., asked him and other senators to participate in discussions regarding new health care policy. Alexander serves as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.