Manchin liked Obama's tone but has objections
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., praised President Obama for his "bipartisan and cooperative tone" in the State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, but added he was disappointed that Obama failed to mention coal when discussing the country's energy future.
"I thought he set a good tone, more of a bipartisan tone than I have heard in the past," Manchin said during a telephone press conference Wednesday afternoon.
"I was very, very pleased that he talked about the finances of our country and getting our financial house in order."
Manchin expressed a major "disagreement" with Obama about coal.
"Coal produces 35 percent of the nation's energy. We can do it better, especially if the government helps. I am all for doing everything we can [to create] a balance between the economy and the environment."
Manchin said the United States burns less than one eighth of all the coal burned in the world.
"We need to be finding new technology to help coal be used in a cleaner fashion -- not only in the U.S., but around the world."
Manchin said he did not vote for the budget "deficit extension we are in right now," adding that he "will not vote for another deficit increase or extension" unless the federal government does more to control its costs.
"We are in this financial mess. We've gotten ourselves deeper in to the mess because Congress did not act," Manchin said. "We now have $16.4 trillion of debt. In 2012, the interest on that debt was $220 billion.
"I have voted against the short-term fixes. And I will continue to do it," Manchin said. "Other than that, I was very pleased."
Praising Obama's plans to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan, Manchin said, "I wish it would be done quicker and sooner. We should return the troops home, but we will still have to fight the war on terrorism."
Manchin said more efforts should be made to control gun ownership.
"When I consider to be the crux of the problem is keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them," Manchin said, adding that he supports "vigorous criminal background checks" and identifying people with serious mental illnesses.
Manchin stressed the importance of cybersecurity to counter attacks that occur on a daily basis.
"We need to secure our nation, including our power-grid system and all the things we depend on, on a daily basis.
Manchin also said he is opposed to amnesty for immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
"I could not support that [amnesty] under any conditions," he said.
Manchin is strongly opposed to possible White House plans to initiate new environmental regulations without congressional support.
"I am totally opposed to that. Our Founding Fathers put together a system I think we should adhere to. There are three branches of government. ... I would be very outspoken [and] do everything I can to block the powers that weren't given to any president under our Constitution."
Manchin backed Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour by the end of 2015.
"Overall, I do not have a problem with that. But we have to be sensitive about how some businesses implement that," Manchin said.
"We need to encourage people to get better skill sets," he said. "But those who don't have [those skills] still need to have the ability to get a living wage."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.