A debt ceiling crisis and global financial disaster was avoided late last week when the House of Representatives and Senate passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023; President Joe Biden signed it into law on Saturday, 48 hours ahead of the x-date the U.S. Treasury had set for running out of money.
Of West Virginia’s D.C. delegation, three voted in favor of the bill and one against. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Carol Miller voted along the (moderate) Republican Party line. Rep. Alex Mooney proudly voted against raising the debt ceiling, taking the extremist stance, and Sen. Joe Manchin proudly voted in favor of all the pork he helped stuff into the bill.
As contrary as it may seem, we take issue with both Mooney’s and Manchin’s votes.
Mooney gleefully announced his “nay” hours ahead of the vote. On Talkline, he repeatedly said the House had passed a “good bill” — the Limit, Save, Grow Act — weeks prior and that Republicans shouldn’t have compromised. That “good bill” viciously targeted programs like Medicaid, SNAP and TANF — upon which many West Virginians rely — as well as renewable energy initiatives.
Mooney’s “no” vote shows he was more than willing to crash the global economy and send the nation into a recession — if not an outright depression — over unrealistic spending cuts that would have hurt his own constituents.
Our ire with Manchin stems from his pride over his very misplaced priorities. He was all too pleased to jump on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bandwagon in order to push through the Mountain Valley Pipeline and permitting reforms when he should have been focused on diverting a financial collapse.
Post-vote, Manchin said, “I am proud to announce that we have finally secured the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and have done so with broad, bipartisan support.”
Wrong — preventing an economic catastrophe had broad, bipartisan support. The completion of the MVP is an unfortunate side effect. If the MVP and permit reform truly had bipartisan support, Manchin would have been able to pass related legislation without shoehorning it into the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
The debt ceiling debate isn’t meant to be about spending — it’s about agreeing to pay the nation’s bills. For the most part, Democrats understand this: They made little fuss about raising the debt ceiling under Donald Trump. Republicans, on the other hand, have now repeatedly held the debt ceiling hostage during Democratic presidential administrations to further unpopular policies. This time, Republicans forced stricter work requirements for government aid and withdrew an overall $20 billion in financial support for the IRS, the latter of which is expected to cause $40 billion in lost revenue over the next 10 years and increase the deficit by $19 billion.
Manchin should have maintained that debt ceiling negotiations are for the debt ceiling — not for budget cuts, not for rolling back already passed legislation, not for permitting reform. This is not a matter of party; it is a matter of principle. There’s far too much at stake should negotiations ever fail.
In the end, for better or worse, the debt ceiling was raised and life goes on. However, the Fiscal Responsibility Act is an irksome reminder of the way politicians force measures — popular only amongst political donors, not among the U.S. populace — into must-pass legislation, like cramming unsavory pork pieces into an overstuffed sausage.