Smart Democrats will follow Sen. Joe Manchin 

There are 23 Senate Democrats facing re-election battles next year. One of them, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has only been in Congress for a few months, having won a special election in November to complete the late Robert Byrd’s term. (Manchin will be seeking his first full six-year term in 2012.)

Despite the brevity of Manchin’s Washington, D.C., tenure, Democrats who hope to win in 2012 would do well to pay close attention to the West Virginian, who this week said he will vote against raising the national-debt ceiling if it is not coupled with a bipartisan, long-term plan to get federal spending under control. That declaration puts Manchin solidly at odds with President Barack Obama, who predicts cataclysmic consequences if Congress does not increase the debt ceiling when the current limit of $14.3 trillion is exceeded in April.

Speaking at the University of Charleston, Manchin said, “I have never put together a budget — be it my family’s or as governor — that was based on how much we wanted to spend, but on what we had. That is why I will vote against raising the debt ceiling unless the vote is linked to a real budget plan that begins to fix our fiscal mess. We cannot make budgets based on the next election; they must be based on the next generation.”

Manchin is the same Democrat who, during last year’s campaign, fired a high-powered rifle at a target made from a copy of Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal.

Manchin clearly is serious about being his own man, and he could not have picked more important issues to show his independence — federal spending, taxes and debt. Obama expects Congress to raise the federal government’s credit limit yet again, just as it has done perfunctorily for decades under presidents of both parties.

Obama and his Democratic congressional allies have increased federal spending and debt more in the past two years than every previous administration combined, and they still want to spend more. But that will put the country even further into an abyss of debt that will make the next generation and its children the first in American history to suffer a decreasing standard of living compared to their parents.

Nothing worries Americans more now than Washington’s irresponsible spending. Barely one in three Americans have confidence in Obama’s economic policies, according to the latest Rasmussen surveys of national voter opinion. And even that paltry showing for Obama is likely to decline more following the latest Congressional Budget Office report.

The office looked closely at Obama’s 2012 budget projection and concluded that it understates the true magnitude of federal spending and debt by at least $2.3 trillion over the coming decade. Manchin is right — business as usual in Washington must end now, not next year, the year after that or at some other vague point in the future.

Democrats and Republicans who don’t get this can expect to be replaced in 2012.

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