CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin will vote to restore funding to the Affordable Care Act, despite his opposition to a key piece of the health care law.
Manchin said while he opposes a section of the law requiring all U.S. citizens to have health insurance coverage, he would not support a government shutdown to see the mandate abolished or delayed.
Congress is currently in a budget standoff over the law.
Members have until Monday to pass a budget, or else almost all operations of the U.S. government will shut down. The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a funding bill last Friday that would keep the government open, but also would strike down the Affordable Care Act.
Leaders in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate have made it clear they will not pass that bill.
In an emailed statement released Thursday afternoon, Manchin said, "We need to work together as Americans to solve these problems so we can get our economy back on track and create American jobs."
He said he still does not support the law's so-called "individual mandate" that will require all U.S. citizens have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014 or face a fine.
"I have always opposed the individual mandate, and I continue to have concerns with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the cost and choices West Virginians will have in the health care exchanges," he said.
There are exemptions to the mandate.
Those who cannot afford coverage because the monthly premiums would exceed 8 percent of their annual income, and those who are experiencing hardships won't have to purchase coverage. Anyone who qualifies for Medicaid coverage under the new law but lives in a state that refused to expand its Medicaid program also is exempt.
Among the other exempt groups are Native Americans who are eligible for care under a separate program, illegal immigrants, prisoners and members of a health care sharing ministry. There is also a religious exemption.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million people will be exempt from the mandate's penalties by 2016.
Many see the individual mandate as the cornerstone of Obama's Affordable Care Act, which passed Congress in 2010. Without it, many health care experts fear the law's attempts to reduce the costs of care and insurance will be futile.