Despite press reports that have indicated Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia would not support a debt ceiling deal that involves tax hikes, the senator won't reveal, when asked in person, where he actually stands on the contentious issue.

"I’m for a plan that’s fair," Manchin, who is up for reelection next year, said in the Capitol yesterday afternoon. "Just a fair plan for everybody."

Democrats wanted more than just closed loopholes to raise tax revenues, including expiration of the renewed Bush tax cuts, in the grand deal negotiations that fell apart last weekend. But Manchin did not answer multiple questions about raising income tax rates as part of a debt deal, even though he told the Hill recently that he "doesn't believe in tax hikes."

"I just think a fair plan is what we’re looking for," Manchin said, after being asked if a debt plan would include tax hikes. "You pay your fair share."

Would raising income taxes on anyone be fair? "[Kent] Conrad’s been laying some good things out," Manchin said. "We’ll see whatever Kent comes up with. I haven’t seen a final proposal yet."

Conrad's budget blueprint includes raising taxes on the top 1 percent of income earners, according to reports. So would Manchin support a final proposal that raised income taxes? "I think fairness is what we’re looking for and really what I’ve been talking about," he said. "Loopholes, offset credits, tax shelters, and all those things there should be basically taken into consideration first."

So will Manchin join Nebraska's Ben Nelson and Virginia's Jim Webb, who more recently have said they are against tax hikes? It's difficult to say, but Manchin's positive words for Conrad's budget reveal he may believe in tax hikes after all.

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