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Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise today to speak of one of my gravest concerns, which is our Nation's fiscal future.
All of us--Democrats, Republicans, liberals, moderates, conservatives--face a choice about whether we will seize the moment before us and confront our great fiscal nightmare or whether we will let this moment pass us by. Clearly, we face tough and difficult decisions. The decision we make as Members of Congress must be the right and responsible ones or our beloved Nation and our hard-working families will needlessly suffer.
In my State, when I became Governor, we faced challenging times--growing debts and tough budget choices. When I was first elected in November of 2004, the first thing I did afterwards was go to New York and talk to the rating agencies--the people who knew our State best--to find out what our gravest challenges were. I went back home and we started making changes.
I did not blame anyone--any past administration, Republican or Democrat or any other body. I was elected to fix things, not to put blame on people. As West Virginians, not as Democrats or Republicans, we set about fixing the problems of our State. We didn't raise tax rates. People came to me and said we needed to do that, but I couldn't look people in the eye and do that without trying to run our State more efficiently.
The difference between what we did back home and what is happening here in Washington is that we faced these choices together. We worked across party lines in a responsible way to address our fiscal challenges. In doing so, we set our State on the right fiscal path and--let me stress again without sacrificing our moral responsibility or obligations to our seniors, our veterans, and the people most challenged in our society. We did that without raising their tax rates.
Right now, because we made the right choices, our State is doing well. Even in these most difficult, challenging financial times, we have had record surpluses every year--6 years in a row. For the last 3 years, we have been one of the few States in the Nation that has an increase in our rating from Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch, the rating agencies. We did this by living within our means. It is the reason why I am such a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment. It makes you put in place your priorities based on what your values are. I truly believe most Americans support a balanced budget. Every family I know in my State and in this Nation works off of some sort of a budget. Nearly all our State governments operate on a balanced budget. I have never seen another place, except here in our Nation's Capitol--our government in Washington--that puts a budget together based on what they want to spend, not on how much they have to spend.
But how we balance our budget is critically important. We have a moral responsibility and an obligation to our seniors, our families, and those who are the most fragile in our challenged society. That is why I cannot support the cut, cap, and balance plan passed in the House, which we will be voting on shortly. As a moderate Democrat who is also a proud fiscal conservative, I agree with the bill's goal of a balanced budget. However, I cannot support the path it takes.
The cut, cap, and balance plan does not reflect who we are or what we want to be as Americans. I believe we need to cut but not so deeply and without regard for our seniors and the most vulnerable. I believe we need a cap on our spending but not at a level that could destroy the most important and vital programs we have in our society. I strongly believe we need a balanced budget amendment but only one that takes a responsible and reasonable approach.
Clearly, we can all agree it is time for us to make the difficult choice that will get our financial house in order, but we must do so with the right plan in a responsible manner--one that keeps our promises to our seniors, our veterans and, most importantly, our children. And like it or not, neither Democrats nor Republicans can tackle this enormous challenge on their own. This is not a political problem, this is an American problem, one we all face. We should put politics aside and truly put our country first.
Earlier this week, I saw that spirit at its finest. On Tuesday of this past week, the Presiding Officer, along with 49 of our other colleagues, came together to listen to the Gang of 6, who worked so hard on ideas based on the President's fiscal debt commission. Democrats and Republicans rolled out the first bipartisan proposal to address the Nation's fiscal nightmare. At that meeting, 50 Senators from both parties--evenly split--came together to listen to the hard work of the Senators who spanned the ideological spectrum. At that moment, the Gang of 6 turned into what we affectionately called the ``Mob of 50.''
And for the first time in these negotiations about our fiscal future, we had a bipartisan plan with momentum that was putting our country first.
We should not waste this moment. We must work together to cut spending and attack waste, fraud, and abuse in every sector of our country, every department, every program that needlessly costs our Nation hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
We must work together to reform our Tax Code, not to raise tax rates but to make fairness a priority. It is simply unfair that hard-working middle-class families in West Virginia and all around this great country would pay more in taxes than a Fortune 500 company such as GE, which didn't pay a cent, or billionaires such as Warren Buffett who pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. Democrats and Republicans must work together to remove unnecessary loopholes, subsidies, and tax credits we simply cannot afford in light of our ballooning debt.
It is time to end the three wars we have that we are spending so much on and the resources we can't afford and the lives we can't spare.
I say to all this is a time for us to come together as Americans, to put our politics aside, and do what is right for all of the future of this generation and for this country.
I yield the floor.
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