Manchin warns government to step up after Fitch credit rating downgrade

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives prior to Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 19, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday called on his colleagues to take sorely needed budgetary steps to strengthen the economy after Fitch credit analysts’ recent decision to downgrade the United States’ long-held foreign issuer default rating.

Fitch downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AA+ to AAA on Tuesday, months after having placed the nation’s rating on negative watch in May. The credit rating firm cited the U.S. government‘s lengthy debt ceiling debate, along with the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in its decision.

The West Virginia Democrat a member of the Appropriations Committee, called the move “a stark warning that cannot be ignored.”

“When you look at 21 years that we have spent more than we’ve taken in … Democrats and Republicans are guilty,” Manchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday. “And we’ve got to fix this, and we’re not taking it seriously.”

He added that the U.S. is heading toward a “fiscal cliff” if lawmakers do not heed Fitch’s “warning shot.”

“I welcome the … news that Fitch has given us to get our government, our funding, or financial house in order, if you will, and take it (seriously), and put other things in perspective,” Manchin said.

“We don’t even do a risk management, we do nothing at all until we get to the fiscal cliff every year,” he added.

Manchin said the “toxic” atmosphere in Congress only lifts when a bipartisan agreement is reached to spend more money.

“When you think the last time that we actually passed a budget on time, by September 30, was 1997 … you’re talking about $5.5 trillion of debt, which I thought was horrendous at that time,” he said.
And now we’re at $32.5 trillion.”

Manchin’s warning comes a day after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called the Fitch downgrade decision “entirely unwarranted” based on a “flawed assessment.”

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