W.Va. delegation reacts cooly to Obama speech
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed mixed feelings about President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
"There are some things that might help us and some things that are just more challenging," Manchin said during a telephone press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Manchin praised Obama for his job-training programs. "But how many programs do we have that people have meaningful jobs when they complete them?"
Manchin criticized "corporations going offshore" and some Obama-backed trade agreements with foreign countries, such as the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, that would allow trade agreements to be made with Asian countries without full consideration by Congress.
"I have not voted for trade agreements," Manchin said. "I am willing to help any other country. But when they don't meet the same criteria, whether it is for the environmental or humanitarian [working conditions], it is unfair trade. I have been opposed to that."
Manchin again voiced his opposition to the war in Afghanistan. "We are not going to change that part of the world with military might or money. There is no reason for us to be bogged down there. The sooner and quicker we get out of Afghanistan, the better. Some of our Special Forces Ops in those areas will continue to fight the war on terrorism."
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., also had expressed mixed feelings about Obama's speech.
"I support calls for investing more in our own nation, in roads and bridges, education, research and the modern water systems we so obviously need, but that the Republican leadership in Congress so vehemently opposes."
Rahall added, "I depart completely from this administration when it crafts an energy agenda that sidelines coal and when the White House circumvents Congress to impose its own agenda."
Manchin said, "Whether you like it or not, coal produces more energy for this country than any other source. Gas is next. Then you have nuclear and renewable energies.
"We only burn about one eighth of the amount of coal burned in the world. To think we can clean up the atmosphere alone is absolutely ludicrous."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, "We know that an energy economy is a jobs economy. I am disappointed in our president's administration for limiting West Virginia's abundant possibilities for using our energy resources to create good-paying jobs.
"But I applaud his support for fueling vehicles with natural gas. Coal and natural gas are secure, domestic, reliable sources of energy that heat our homes, power our economy and employ tens of thousands of West Virginians.
"Coal should be part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and I am disappointed in the president for lobbying once again for his new, burdensome greenhouse gas regulations. Our coal is good enough for Japan, good enough for the Netherlands, good enough to export all around the world," Capito said.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a Democrat running against Capito for the U.S. Senate seat this year, said, "If the president wants to promote opportunity, he needs to rethink his energy policies. The president is wrong on coal and I will fight him or anyone else who wants to take our coal jobs.
"At the height of our water crisis, no one could tell us how harmful the chemical was or what levels were safe. But the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has time to go after our coal jobs in West Virginia? That doesn't make sense," Tenant said.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, said, "Creating a better life for our children -- reducing income inequality and providing opportunities -- is profoundly personal to me. It has, in many ways, been my life's work and calling, something that stirred within me during my early days as a VISTA worker in southern West Virginia in the 1960s. ...
"We know that the wealthiest one percent of Americans take home nearly 20 percent of our nation's total household income -- representing a kind of inequality that is truly staggering."
Over the years, Rockefeller supported and helped create many programs, including: the Children's Health Insurance Program, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid.
"But addressing income inequality isn't just about a safety net. It's also about creating new opportunities," Rockefeller said. "That's why I am glad that the president agrees with me that it is imperative to expand high-speed [internet] broadband connections to our schools and libraries."
Manchin also said, "I support raising the minimum wage. I am also very cautious that we watch and monitor the employment rates, especially for workers entering the workforce. We have to make sure we are not creating more unemployment. Just raising the minimum wage will not eliminate income inequality. It helps on the lower end, but we need higher paying jobs."
Manchin opposes Obama's proposal to issue an "executive order" to raise the minimum wage for all contractors working for the federal government.
"I think that is the wrong approach. To say we will just do that in one sector does not build confidence."
Capito said, "I believe Congress should debate whether the minimum wage should be raised again. This is a discussion and a debate that should be taken up in the halls of Congress, not pushed into effect via an executive order."
Rep. David B. McKinley said, "Our economy is being held back by burdensome regulations, a broken health care law, and a tax system that is too complicated, yet the president didn't address those issues."
McKinley believes Obama's "appears to be going it alone and not working together with Congress.
"In a divided government, we need to find consensus to get anything done. For the sake of the American people, we need to work together in a bipartisan manner, find common ground, and find common sense ways to make life better for all Americans."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.