CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., believes Congress passed several pieces of significant legislation this year, despite what he described as "historic levels" of disagreements.
"As chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, I have held 177 hearings, conducted 28 markup sessions and reported over 100 pieces of legislation -- and have done so on a bipartisan basis," Rockefeller said in a statement released Friday.
"Just today, I held a hearing examining consumer abuses in the household moving goods industry. Earlier this week, I held a hearing on the COMPETES Act, a law I spearheaded, that invests billions of dollars in the basic scientific research and innovation that our country needs to stay at the top of the global economy," Rockefeller said.
COMPETES helps fund scientific research at many colleges and universities, including West Virginia University.
Rockefeller also pointed out many bills approved by the Commerce Committee, which were later passed by the Senate and House, then signed into law. They included:
• The Surface Transportation Bill, which will provide $109 billion during the next two years to modernize and improve safety on the nation's highways and railroads. This bill will send $423.3 million in highway funds into West Virginia next year, according to Rockefeller, and create or save 1.8 million jobs nationwide.
• The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill, which will fund the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to help small rural airports, as well as to support the Small Community Air Service Development Program.
• The Public Safety Bill, signed into law as part of the Payroll Tax Relief Bill, will help "build a nationwide, wireless high-speed communications network specifically designed to connect West Virginia's and our nation's first responders during emergencies," enabling them to communicate wirelessly when responding to disasters.
This law, Rockefeller said, will help prevent the type of communications failures that occurred during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks and at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, where 29 coal miners died April 5, 2010.
But those bills are the exception, Rockefeller acknowledged. He said a lot of important legislation "has been blocked by partisan politics -- which is very frustrating. Majority Leader [Harry] Reid has had to overcome 382 filibusters in six years."
This year, the Senate considered several jobs bills, many of which were backed by both parties, "until Republicans pulled their support at the last minute," Rockefeller said.
"Just this week, a job training bill for veterans was blocked for political reasons," he said. "Last spring, the Violence Against Women Act lapsed when the House refused to compromise.
"At this point, I think we need to get past the election -- and to hear from the American people when they cast their votes -- in order to find balance and make real progress on jobs, taxes and the deficit."Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.