The Washington Times - March 21, 2011, 12:18PM

Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who has shown a proclivity to break with President Obama since his election last year, was at it again Monday, with a speech in Charleston warning he won’t back an increase in the federal debt ceiling without major progress toward a long-term budget deal to get federal spending under control.

With the federal government set to bump up against its statutory borrowing ceiling within weeks, Mr. Obama has warned lawmakers that the debt limit must be increased to avoid a government default and massive disruptions in global financial markets. But many tea-party-backed Republican fiscal hawks on Capitol Hill have come out against another increase in the debt ceiling, and Mr. Manchin made clear he was not a safe vote either.

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“There are some in Washington who believe we can simply ignore the fiscal peril we face as a nation. They are wrong,” Mr. Manchin warned, according to the senator’s prepared remarks released to reporters.

He added: “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.”

Mr. Manchin, a former governor, already has proved an uncertain ally for fellow Senate Democrats and the White House, using his maiden speech on the Senate floor to say that Mr. Obama had “failed to lead” in the Washington debate over how to reduce the country’s massive federal debt levels.

The Treasury Department estimates the government could exceed the current ceilling of $14.3 trillion as soon as April 15.