West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin suggested he and his colleagues should not be paid until they’re able to broker a deal with Republicans over the national debt.
In a Thursday speech on the Senate floor, Manchin assailed members of both parties for their inability to reach compromise on a budget deal amid a months-long impasse over President Joe Biden‘s spending packages and ongoing aid to the Ukrainian military.
Republicans are now calling for spending cuts—though they have not specified which ones—against threats to allow the federal government to default on its debt, a move experts say would potentially crater the economy.
Above, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin faces a bus shelter showing the national debt in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2023. Manchin suggested in a speech on March 2, 2023, that he and his fellow congressional Democrats not get paid until reaching a compromise with Republicans regarding national debt. Mandel Ngan/Anna Moneymaker/Newsweek Photo Illustration/Getty Images
Meanwhile, Democrats have continued to rack up the national debt with spending programs on infrastructure and other social programs, Manchin said, which could threaten the integrity of programs like Social Security and Medicare.
“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 and responsible reforms,” said Manchin on Thursday. “We’re going to pay our debts, we have to pay our sins of the past, but can’t we at least sit down and discuss? Can we even talk about that and see if there’s a pathway forward?”
“If we don’t pass a budget, we—as elected leaders, from the president all the way down—should not get paid,” he added. “Period.”
It’s not all in Democrats’ hands, Manchin said, taking aim at Republicans he said had so far “refused to offer any specifics, and some have recklessly threatened default” regarding spending and the debt ceiling.
Thursday’s comments come several weeks after a similar series of public statements and interviews in which the West Virginia Democrat publicly broke with party leadership to urge negotiations with Republicans on a deal to avert defaulting on the nation’s debt.
But while Manchin, a common foil to Democrats’ narrow Senate Majority and its agenda over the past several years, has played the role of peacekeeper between the two chambers, the moderate Democrat has so far stopped short of producing his own specific recommendations on what to cut, instead encouraging other cost-saving reforms to address the debt.
“Capping the annual growth of discretionary spending at 1 percent for the next 10 years would save more than $1 trillion,” Manchin argued in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post.
“We can do this without threatening essential programs such as Medicare and Social Security or cutting defense spending at a time when we are grappling with the largest-scale land war in Europe since World War II and an emboldened China that blatantly violates our airspace and dominates global supply chains.”
But Manchin’s proposals for compromise have largely lacked specifics.
While Manchin has already earned guarantees this winter from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that entitlements like Social Security and Medicare will remain off the table in current discussions, Manchin previously said other cuts proposed by Republicans are “not going to happen,” while he has remained a staunch supporter of Ukrainian aid some Republicans have begun to scrutinize.
Entering a Thursday lunch with Biden and the rest of the Senate conference, Manchin stopped short of sending a public message to the President about how he felt, telling Politico’s Burgess Everett “I’m going to listen.”
“That’s why I’ve got two ears and one brain,” Manchin said. “To keep my mouth shut.”
Newsweek reached out to Manchin for comment.