By Alicia M. Cohn - 06/27/11 08:18 PM EDT
A Democrat senator on Monday echoed Republican calls for President Obama to step up his leadership in negotiations on the deficit.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who criticized Obama for his failure to lead on crafting a budget deal earlier this year, said the president has to be involved in deficit-reduction negotiations.
"He's the leader — he looks at all 50 states and makes these decisions. He has to bring people together," Manchin said in an interview with Fox News.
Both Democrats and Republicans are "afraid" to reform the system as a whole, he charged, noting: "There's more people dependent in an entitlement mentality than ever before in our country."
Obama, who took a backseat to Vice President Biden's deficit talks until negotiations collapsed last week, scheduled two meetings Monday with Senate leaders from both parties to discuss deficit reduction.
Manchin, who is a top GOP target in next year's elections, has said he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling without spending reforms, and sides with the Republicans on keeping tax raises off the table.
"I don't believe in tax hikes," Manchin said. "We have to start living within our means in this country."