The Washington Times - March 8, 2011, 01:50PM

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, has accused President Obama of failing to take the lead on the bitter partisan dispute regarding how best to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year.

“Why are we voting on partisan proposals that we know will fail, that we all know don’t balance our nation’s priorities with the need to get our fiscal house in order?” Mr. Manchin said during a Senate floor speech Tuesday. “Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations — our president — has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for?”

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Mr. Manchin “respectfully” urged the president “to take this challenge head-on, bring people together and propose a compromise plan for dealing with our nation’s fiscal challenges.”

“The bottom line is this: The president is the leader of this great nation, and when it comes to an issue of significant national importance, the president must lead. Not the [Senate] majority leader or [House] speaker, but the president. He must sit down with leaders of both parties and help hammer out a real bipartisan compromise.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, quickly rejected the remarks of the freshman senator, a former governor considered among the most conservative Democrats in the Senate.

“Senator Manchin, I think, is incorrect,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday during his weekly briefing with reporters. “The president has been engaged.”

Mr. Hoyer pointed to the president’s debt and deficit commission, which includes key members of Congress and has made several spending recommendations, as proof the White House is serious about changing the way Washington spends taxpayer money.

“The fact that [the president] hasn’t offered something as an alternative right now doesn’t mean he’s not working and leading,” Mr. Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said. “I think he’s doing both, and I think he understands the seriousness of this issue.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the fundraising arm of Senate Republicans, also jumped on Mr. Manchin, accusing him of trying to distance himself from the president after he “loyally rubber-stamped every one of Obama’s big-spending government programs.”

“The fact is, when President Obama calls, Joe Manchin comes running, and his speech today is not going to fool voters into believing otherwise,” NRSC spokesman Chris Bond said.