Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) tonight introduced his 11th-hour effort to keep the worst tenets of the fiscal cliff from going into effect.
His “Cliff Alleviation at the Last Minute,” or CALM Act, would phase in the tax hikes over the next three years instead allowing all of them to hit immediately. It would also allow the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize which programs will be cut, rather than apply an across-the-board sequestration cut.
“If we’re determined to go over the cliff, we’ve got to do something to soften the landing, because at the bottom of the fiscal cliff are immediate and massive tax increases, deep and indiscriminate spending cuts, and the risk of another recession,” Manchin said in a floor speech to introduce the legislation. “So as we come down to the final hours, we have two choices – to do nothing and cause an unbelievable amount of hardship for our fellow Americans or to do something to reduce the suffering inflicted on our citizens by an inflexible political system. I choose to do something.”
Manchin said his bill “is not something that I am excited about or proud to offer.”
“This is not a great plan, merely a better plan than going over the cliff,” he said. “It should never have come to this.”
Manchin’s bill also encourages Congress and the White House to work toward a “big fix” based on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction framework — which President Obama has already rejected.
“Every provision of the CALM Act is familiar to the Senate. In fact, at one time or another, nearly every feature of this plan has been offered by both Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama and Speaker Boehner,” he said. “All I’ve done is pull them together to offer them as a compassionate alternative to what happens if we go over the fiscal cliff.”
“I’m not so naïve as to believe everybody is going to check their politics at the door, even at this late hour. But this is not a time for political bickering or partisan games. To allow the country to plunge over the fiscal cliff, without any alternative plans to soften the landing, is completely unacceptable. …Something has gone terribly wrong when the biggest threat to the American economy is the American Congress.”
Manchin’s bill isn’t likely to be the only version of a stopgap measure to be floated in the coming hours. In a town where continuing resolutions are periodically passed to keep the government running, it’s reasonable to expect that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden will come up with a can-kicking deal in their negotiations tonight and tomorrow.