Joe Manchin Isn't Sure If He Supports Tax Hikes & Medicare Cuts to Pay for Obamacare
7:27 AM, Oct 30, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
West Virginia governor Joe Manchin once supported Obamacare, saying days before it passed in March that he'd vote "for it" if he were in the House of Representatives. Now, in the midst of a tight Senate race with Republican John Raese, the very popular Manchin has run away from the very unpopular health care law. He's called for for "repealing the things that are bad," such as the individual mandate, the federal funding for abortion coverage, and the 1099 reporting requirement for businesses. But he hasn't gone into great detail about what, exactly, he supports in the law.
Asked Friday night if he wants to repeal the tax hikes and Medicare cuts that are supposed to pay for Obamacare, Manchin dodged the question and eventually said he doesn't know. "I haven't gotten into that," Manchin told me before addressing fewer than 100 supporters at a Chinese restaurant in West Virginia's eastern panhandle. He suggested there may be other ways to pay for it than by raising $500 billion in taxes and taking $500 billion in Medicare cuts by 2019. But he didn't get into specifics:
Manchin then slipped into the Peking Restaurant, and made it abundantly clear why he has a job approval rating in the high 60s: he governed as a conservative and is a natural politician with an ability to personally connect with voters. "We need to mine every lump of coal we can," Manchin said. He highlighted his hostility toward cap-and-trade. "You know how I feel about that. Have you seen that ad?"
"Thirty-ought-six!" a fan yelled, referring to the rifle Manchin used to shoot a copy of the cap-and-trade bill in a now-infamous campaign commercial.
"It was a good ad, wasn't it?," Manchin said with a smile.
Manchin touted his A-grade on fiscal issues from the Cato Institute: "Who would have thought this little state would be a financial beacon for the whole country during a most difficult time?" (Unemployment is at 8.9%, about a point below the national average.)
Manchin preached about West Virginia's values--"the God fearing family loving people that we are"--and shared fond memories of meeting the late Robert Byrd in the late 1950s, when Manchin was just 10 years old, at his grandfather's grocery store. "Papa loved to preach and talk about the Bible and cut meat," Manchin said of his grandfather. "I heard the Godawfullest racket in the butcher room and I couldn't figure out--these two men were going at it, preaching the Bible, arguing about how to cut a chicken up and it just went on and on. I go back there and my grandfather, Papa, said, 'Joe, I want you to meet Senator Robert Byrd.'"
It's enough to make a Democrat cringe (well, aside from the praise for Byrd). Of course, Manchin would probably like to revert to his Obamacare-supporting past once he gets into the Senate--no sure thing in a wave election year with Republican Raese a few points behind in the polls. Manchin made it clear that his heart is really with the Democratic party. "When times were tough and things were bad, and I've heard my grandfather talk about depressions, it was always the principles of the Democratic party that came to the rescue of the citizens of America," Manchin told supporters.
If elected to the Senate, Manchin will probably vote with the Democratic leadership when he can get away with it--which probably won't be that often. The winner on November 2 will only serve out the remaining two years of Robert Byrd's last term.
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