Manchin endorses spending caps, balanced-budget amendment

posted at 2:55 pm on April 26, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Republicans appear to be winning the budget battle on Capitol Hill as well as with the electorate.  Senator Joe Manchin, who has to face his constituents again next year after winning a special election to fill out Robert Byrd’s term of office, has announced that he will split with his Democratic party leadership to support major structural reforms to the federal budget:

Freshman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday announced his support for strict spending caps that put him at odds with his party’s leadership and President Obama.

Manchin told an audience in South Charleston, W.Va. that he would endorse the “CAP Act,” which sets a tighter spending limit than the president’s budget calls for, as well as a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

The senator suggested the legislation could help Republicans and Democrats agree to a deal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Passing both would place serious limitations on all government spending, not just discretionary spending.  The GOP’s proposal for a balanced-budget amendment would cap federal spending at 18% of projected annual GDP, which means that Manchin has some other formulation in mind on that score.  The CAP Act would apply separately as law rather than a constitutional requirement and set the spending limit at 20.6% of GDP, five points lower than now.  It would have enforced a limit on the budget this year of $2.95 trillion, which would have cut the deficit in half — but not eliminate it.

In contrast, the GOP’s comprehensive balanced-budget approach would have forced a budgetary limit of $2.57 trillion.  That would still leave a significant deficit of over $300 billion, but certainly one more manageable than the flood of red ink we are currently experiencing.  Of course, just because both would impose upper limits doesn’t mean that Congress would have to spend to the limit.

The two approaches have one thing in c0mmon: both assume major entitlement reform by basing the proposals on serious cuts in spending.  Even Manchin’s proposal cuts $800 billion from federal spending, and  non-security discretionary spending only accounted for $450 billion in Barack Obama’s FY2011 budget proposal.  The only way to extract that much spending from the budget is to seriously alter entitlements to slash their costs.

Manchin’s proposal may not be as clear as Republicans would like on entitlement reform or as low as they would prefer on the spending cap.  However, Manchin’s announcement makes it plain that the budget battle will be fought on Republican terms.


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Well, that’s nice.

Manchin can start by bringing his gun in to put some holes in Obamacare. That would save some money.

Vanceone on April 26, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Manchin endorses spending caps, balanced-budget amendment, and his own re-election

WashJeff on April 26, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Maybe Manchin is trying to cover his zerocare vote. I don’t believe anything this guy says after his zerocare flip.

Brat4life on April 26, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Yeah, and Stupak was “Pro-Life”…..we’ll see the true colors when it comes time to vote for these bills. No Dem, and really a lot of Republicans to boot, can be trusted with words and endorsements. Rubber meets the road on voting day.

search4truth on April 26, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Of course, just because both would impose upper limits doesn’t mean that Congress would have to spend to the limit.

You’re funny, Ed!

Knucklehead on April 26, 2011 at 3:06 PM

So why’d he vote for the budget-busting Obamacare?

SouthernGent on April 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Just how many years would it take to get a balanced budget amendment? 5? 10? or never? No more debt.

tim c on April 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM

We will see your Collins and raise you a Manchin…

right2bright on April 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Yeah, and Stupak was “Pro-Life”…..we’ll see the true colors when it comes time to vote for these bills. No Dem, and really a lot of Republicans to boot, can be trusted with words and endorsements. Rubber meets the road on voting day.

search4truth on April 26, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Oh, he’ll vote for them. The amendment has a slim chance of passing and zero chance of being signed into law, so he can vote for it consequence-free. This is political cover. He’s picking the stuff he thinks is a long-shot in order to build false credibility.

Caiwyn on April 26, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Caiwyn on April 26, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Good analysis…except this may pass. Boehner really put the heat on Obama calling him to “grow up”. I have a feeling that will really strike a nerve with Obama.

right2bright on April 26, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Obviously Manchin likes the senate job pretty well and would like to stay.

cartooner on April 26, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Oh sure, they cap things at 18% of GDP, then all they need to do to get whatever spending they need is to re-jigger how GDP is calculated. If they need a little more spending, they simply increase the amount of “projected” GDP.

I have a better idea. Spending in a given year can not exceed the previous year’s revenue.

crosspatch on April 26, 2011 at 3:15 PM

So why’d he vote for the budget-busting Obamacare?

SouthernGent on April 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM

You’ve got it right. As Penn Jillette might say, it’s fair to say that Joe Manchin’s voting record contains equal amounts of conservatism, fiscal responsibility, and pizza.

To continually fall for his bluster as you, do, Ed, is a sucker’s trap. Manchin lied about voting for Obamacare, and it took minimal pressure from Reid to get Joe “I Hates Obama” to toe the Democrat party line.

I dearly hope that he pays for his dishonesty by losing, but having to share a ballot with Barack Obama in West Virginia two years from now might be punishment enough.

KingGold on April 26, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Boehner to Obama “Grow up

Schadenfreude on April 26, 2011 at 3:17 PM

Oh, he’ll vote for them. The amendment has a slim chance of passing and zero chance of being signed into law,…

Caiwyn on April 26, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Obama can’t veto it. It goes straight to the states. But it will take years to get 38 states.

cartooner on April 26, 2011 at 3:17 PM

I doubt either party cares much about the BBA. It will take years to pass, as others have said, and they will be long gone by then.

As a famous man once said “It’s all words.” I want action: cut spending now.

PattyJ on April 26, 2011 at 3:17 PM

You fu%ked up Manchin…

… you voted for Obowmacare.

Seven Percent Solution on April 26, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Leading from Behind”, a gift to GOP.

The reliably liberal New Yorker magazine isn’t usually in the habit of presenting gifts to the Republican Party, but it has just published three little words that may prove central to the GOP effort to defeat President Obama next year. Those words are “leading from behind,” and they appear at the end of a Ryan Lizza article on Obama’s foreign policy.

Lizza didn’t coin the phrase. “Leading from behind” is a direct quote from of “one of [Obama's] advisers,” who is describing his boss’ policy on Libya. That same adviser goes on to say that the effort to lead from behind is “so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world. But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”

Schadenfreude on April 26, 2011 at 3:20 PM

I just can’t wait to see Obama pass a BBA along with a budget while the fawning MSM has a collective seizure.

fourdeucer on April 26, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Maybe Manchin is trying to cover his zerocare vote. I don’t believe anything this guy says after his zerocare flip.

Brat4life on April 26, 2011 at 3:01 PM

‘Zerocare’! I ♥ it! It makes the term ‘Obamacare’ look like a flabby middle-ager in mom jeans.

I’m going to borrow that if you don’t mind, but it should be: Unconstitutional Zerocare to be precise.

Chip on April 26, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Obama can’t veto it. It goes straight to the states. But it will take years to get 38 states.

cartooner on April 26, 2011 at 3:17 PM

He can’t veto it, per se, because it has to be passed with a two-thirds majority, the maximum of Congress’s power.

As for the states, how many of them have balanced budgets in their constitutions and Republican legislators? Remember, Democrats may have more of the big states, but we have more of the total number. I don’t see 38 states as being out of the question within a year or so.

KingGold on April 26, 2011 at 3:21 PM

As a signal of what is happening in the debate this is good.

The balanced budget amendment is not going to do anything at all for years if ever. So that seems a likely concession Democrats would like to make. But it is meaningless in the here and now. It is like paygo, for propaganda purposes only.

I’m not against it, I just know it will take far too long to become law to do any good today.

petunia on April 26, 2011 at 3:22 PM

More ‘goodies’, from same article.

And yet one gets the distinct sense not that Obama has been forced into the position of “leading from behind” by the circumstances in which he finds himself, but rather that he wants to “lead from behind.”

In one sense, that’s entirely understandable: The burdens of world leadership are exceptionally heavy at the moment, and seem quite thankless. But then, nobody told Barack Obama to run for president, and no one is telling him to run for re-election.

Of course, this article and that pithy three-word closing phrase just made that challenge significantly more difficult.

Schadenfreude on April 26, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Obama can’t veto it. It goes straight to the states. But it will take years to get 38 states.

cartooner on April 26, 2011 at 3:17 PM

I don’t think so. Most states already have BBAs of their own and would be happy to apply the same strictures to the feds. There were 23 red states in 2008. It probably wouldn’t take much to pick up the other 15.

Kafir on April 26, 2011 at 3:32 PM

The BBA is a copout.

Elect public officials who aren’t corrupt careerists.

rickyricardo on April 26, 2011 at 3:44 PM

So why’d he vote for the budget-busting Obamacare?

SouthernGent on April 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Because Obamacare saves money………….HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Manchin is doing the election two-step, he’s a Dem and has no intention of reining in spending.

jnelchef on April 26, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Manchin told an audience in South Charleston, W.Va. that he would endorse the “CAP Act,” which sets a tighter spending limit than the president’s budget calls for, as well as a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Translation: Let the bidding for my vote begin.

fossten on April 26, 2011 at 3:52 PM

What’s he holding out for? Always follow the money.

Kissmygrits on April 26, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Interesting that he would take this approach when his constituents are the oldest in the country. I guess the “Dog Food Demagoguery” may not be working as well as the progressives planned.

forest on April 26, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Spending Caps: YES!!!

“Balanced Budget Ammendment”: NO WAY!!! This is just a “false flag” measure designed to keep Democrat fingerprints off tax increases. With such an ammendment in place, they will claim they “didn’t have anything to do with the tax increases”…which they will force via false accounting and unabated over-spending.

landlines on April 26, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Passing both would place serious limitations on all government spending, not just discretionary spending. The GOP’s proposal for a balanced-budget amendment would cap federal spending at 18% of projected annual GDP, which means that Manchin has some other formulation in mind on that score. The CAP Act would apply separately as law rather than a constitutional requirement and set the spending limit at 20.6% of GDP, five points lower than now. It would have enforced a limit on the budget this year of $2.95 trillion, which would have cut the deficit in half — but not eliminate it.

A spending cap on “projected” annual GDP always allows the escape hatch of Obama “projecting” 20% GDP growth next year, due to the miraculous effects of Super-Genius Rose-Colored Stimuli and jet propulsion by unicorn farts. It’s better to peg these spending caps to the PREVIOUS year’s GDP (even if the percentages are a little higher), since it would be much harder to fudge the numbers.

It’s much easier to get a LAW passed than a Constitutional Amendment, and this is the perfect time to tie a SPENDING limit to raising the debt ceiling.

The GOP leadership in Congress should propose a deficit limit for FY 2012 (much less than the current deficit), and agree to raise the debt limit by that (one-year) deficit, under the condition that FY 2012 spending be limited to the deficit limit plus anticipated tax revenues under CURRENT tax laws.

If the spending cuts are then enacted, the debt limit will again need to be raised in one year, and we will have this debate again with Obama on the ballot. If the spending cuts are NOT enacted, the debt ceiling debate will come earlier, with a new chance to force further spending cuts.

Steve Z on April 26, 2011 at 5:08 PM

In otherwords, Manchin has read the writing on the wall from the people of WV, and it says….change or don’t hope to get re-elected.

Vote him out! He’ll turn liberal once he gets his re-election.

capejasmine on April 26, 2011 at 5:27 PM

If Manchin is sincere about this, if it’s not just reelection posturing, why is he still a Crat?

paul1149 on April 26, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Guys!!!! Your confusing your Dems. Manchin got elected in 2010, Obamacare vote was in 2009…. remember?

clover_dave on April 26, 2011 at 5:38 PM

early 2010, not 2009

clover_dave on April 26, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Guys!!!! Your confusing your Dems. Manchin got elected in 2010, Obamacare vote was in 2009…. remember?

clover_dave on April 26, 2011 at 5:38 PM

No. There was a vote early in the year about Obamacare where he could’ve voted against it. He chose to side with Obama/Pelosi/Reid

SouthernGent on April 26, 2011 at 8:23 PM