Senator Manchin, U.S. Senator for West Virginia

 

 

Press Release of Senator Manchin

MANCHIN DELIVERS MAIDEN SPEECH, A 4-POINT COMMON SENSE AGENDA: UPDATED WITH AUDIO AND VIDEO

Manchin also drops first legislation – ‘EPA Fair Play Act’ – to check EPA’s power, protect jobs and investments in West Virginia and beyond

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Washington, D.C. — In his introductory speech as U.S. Senator, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today took the floor for the first time and outlined his 4-point commonsense agenda to create jobs, restore fiscal responsibility, develop a balanced energy policy that establishes energy independence within this generation and keep our promises to seniors and veterans.

Senator Manchin also introduced his first piece of legislation, the bipartisan “EPA Fair Play Act,” which would prevent the agency from changing its rules on businesses after permits have already been granted.

In the maiden speech, Senator Manchin pledged to work across the aisle, as he has done throughout his career in public service, to find commonsense solutions and to usher in a new bipartisan spirit in the Senate and in this Congress.

Audio of the speech is available here:

http://demradio.senate.gov/actualities/manchin/020311_MANCHIN.mp3

YouTube of the speech is available here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnejFOTSuLQ

“Of course, cynics will argue that gridlock is inevitable and that commonsense solutions are impossible because the partisan division in Washington is just too great,” Senator Manchin said. “They are wrong. While the legislative reality we face is divided government, it does not mean we must be divided.”

Senator Manchin also said: “This is what I learned growing up: in West Virginia when things are tough, we don’t back down. When we’re having trouble paying our bills, we don’t think of spending more money; when we face difficult times, we work together to make things better. When faced with a problem, we don’t avoid what needs to be done, we try to solve it.  This is what West Virginians would call commonsense.”

As for the legislation, Senator Manchin said: “I believe it is fundamentally wrong for any bureaucratic agency, including the EPA, to regulate what has not been legislated, to have absolute power to change the rules at the end of the game and to revoke a permit, as the EPA did in southern West Virginia’s Spruce Mine, after it was lawfully granted and employees were hired. Giving any agency such absolute power will have a chilling effect on investment and job creation far beyond West Virginia.”

Background on the legislation and selected excerpts of the speech are included below. The full text of the speech, as prepared for delivery, is also included.

Background on legislation:

The permit for the Spruce Mine was approved after an exhaustive, approximately 10-year regulatory process that included extensive review by the EPA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the Section 404(c) permit, which is a requirement for constructing clean valley fills, a process used in surface coal mining. The EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Section 404(c) permits before they are awarded by the U.S. Army Corps.  However, the EPA has never before attempted to veto a previously awarded and active permit.

Arch Coal was poised to invest $250 million dollars in the Spruce Mine project, which was already employing West Virginians and would have created approximately 200 good-paying jobs with benefits. The EPA’s decision to retroactively veto the permit casts serious doubt on the future of this project and others throughout the country.

Senator Manchin has already gained bipartisan support for his legislation, including original cosponsors Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Maiden Speech Excerpts

West Virginia may be a small state, but our impact on our nation’s history and its future is far greater than the size of our geography or our population.

West Virginia was born out of the turmoil of the Civil War, founded by patriots who shared a united pursuit for justice and freedom for all.

Since this historic beginning, our lands and vast natural resources have helped build this nation. Our people’s hard work, sacrifices, and patriotism have helped make our nation stronger and safer. From the mining of the coal that powers our cities, to the forging of the steel, we have done and will do the heavy lifting that has built America.

But this great responsibility to serve as a United States Senator for West Virginia would never have come about had our state not lost a true giant - our beloved Senator Robert C. Byrd.

Senator Byrd was a mentor to me, a great friend to West Virginia, and a tireless advocate for all of her people.

West Virginia would not be the state it is today without his inexhaustible commitment. Every day without Senator Byrd is a loss for us all, but we all can take comfort that he made not just West Virginia a better state, but he made America a greater nation.  

 

This is what I learned growing up: in West Virginia when things are tough, we don’t back down. When we’re having trouble paying our bills, we don’t think of spending more money; when we face difficult times, we work together to make things better. When faced with a problem, we don’t avoid what needs to be done, we try to solve it.  This is what West Virginians would call commonsense.

Of course, cynics will argue that gridlock is inevitable and that commonsense solutions are impossible because the partisan division in Washington is just too great. 

They are wrong.

While the legislative reality we face is divided government, it does not mean we must be divided.

During those two weeks [during the Senate recess] in January, I traveled more than 2,100 miles on my “Call for Common Sense” tour.

I held more than 28 events, and met with the unemployed, seniors, veterans, small business owners, young professionals, labor leaders, educators, leaders from our coal and energy industry, as well as leaders in manufacturing. I held town halls in Wheeling and Elkins where West Virginians with diverse concerns came together to share their opinions.

Again and again, I heard their serious concerns about the economy and jobs, the need to protect coal and our energy industry, as well as the fears from rising debt and deficits.

If we are going to be truly secure, we must declare our country to be energy independent, and every state must do its part. West Virginia is using every ounce of its natural resources – coal, natural gas, timber, wind, hydroelectric, solar – all of which should be used in the most environmentally responsible way so that we stop buying oil from countries that promote violence against their own people and the United States. That’s just common sense.

In that spirit, I will strive to always find that common sense bridge that unites our parties and reminds us and the world that we, no matter what state we may represent, share one common and unbreakable bond.

We are all Americans.

We all share a love for this nation, for our families, for our children, and it is this bond which will unite us in these difficult times and which gives me the hope and optimism that once again we will rise above any challenge we face.

Full text of speech, as prepared for delivery:

 

Madam President, it is my great honor today to speak on the floor for the first time as a United States Senator.

 

I am truly humbled by this auspicious occasion and the enormous privilege to serve the greatest people in America - the people of West Virginia.

 

West Virginia may be a small state, but our impact on our nation’s history and its future is far greater than the size of our geography or our population.

 

West Virginia was born out of the turmoil of the Civil War, founded by patriots who shared a united pursuit for justice and freedom for all.

 

Since this historic beginning, our lands and vast natural resources have helped build this nation. Our people’s hard work, sacrifices, and patriotism have helped make our nation stronger and safer. From the mining of the coal that powers our cities, to the forging of the steel, we have done and will do the heavy lifting that has built America.

 

But this great responsibility to serve as a United States Senator for West Virginia would never have come about had our state not lost a true giant - our beloved Senator Robert C. Byrd.

 

Senator Byrd was a mentor to me, a great friend to West Virginia, and a tireless advocate for us all.

 

West Virginia would not be the state it is today without his inexhaustible commitment. Every day without Senator Byrd is a loss for us all, but we all can take comfort that he made not just West Virginia a better state, but he made America a greater nation.  

 

While no one will ever be able to fill his shoes, I hope to honor his memory by continuing down the path he blazed fighting to better the lives of West Virginians and all Americans.

 

I would also like to recognize the unwavering leadership of West Virginia’s distinguished senior Senator, one who has left a dynamic mark on history, my dear friend, Senator Jay Rockefeller. He has committed his life to giving outstanding public service to a very grateful state.

 

Throughout my 20 years of public service, I have been fortunate beyond words to serve the great people of West Virginia.

 

Again and again, I have been inspired by West Virginians’ devotion to family, their love of country, their belief in hard work and sacrifice, and – above all – their undeniable spirit to weather any storm by coming together.

 

I have seen our state endure its most devastating challenges – horrific flooding and tragic mining accidents – and I’ve seen our state in the best of times. But at all times, the spirit of West Virginia has never been broken. It is this spirit of working together and finding commonsense solutions – to any challenge – that inspires me.

 

It is this spirit that also inspired both sets of my grandparents to immigrate to America, one from Italy, the other from Czechoslovakia. My grandparents came here with the same goal shared by countless generations of immigrants - to provide a better quality of life for their families. Through hard work and sacrifice, they did just that.

 

This is what I learned growing up: in West Virginia when things are tough, we don’t back down. When we’re having trouble paying our bills, we don’t think of spending more money; when we face difficult times, we work together to make things better. When faced with a problem, we don’t avoid what needs to be done, we try to solve it.  This is what West Virginians would call commonsense.

 

Now, I was born and raised in Farmington, West Virginia, a small coal mining town. Nothing will teach you common sense like growing up in a town of less than 500 people.

 

I was educated in our public schools and became the first member of my family to graduate from college.  I met my partner in life, my wife, Gayle, in West Virginia. We raised our three children in the state we love. And I have long believed in the importance of public service, beginning with my days supporting a volunteer rescue squad in Marion County and working with the United Way more than three decades ago.

 

As for my public life, from my first days as a state legislator to my last day as Governor, I realized that none of us, in this or any body, are simply elected to an office. We are not here for the title. We are here to make a difference.

 

I am here to work hard and do this job, and I’ll work with anyone who offers commonsense solutions on how to best move this country forward.

 

Madam President, in my maiden inaugural address as West Virginia’s 34th governor, I said that in order for us to be successful it was going to take the commitment of civic leaders; public employees; business people and laborers; educators, students and parents; lawyers and doctors; veterans, young professionals, senior citizens; and Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

 

At the time, very few thought that such a diverse coalition could ever be forged -- let alone actually accomplish something in the process. 

 

But we West Virginians put politics aside, we listened to each other, we worked together, and we came together to find common ground and develop commonsense solutions.

 

As a result, we changed the direction of our state for the better.

 

We got our financial house in order, we lowered our taxes for both families and businesses, we paid down unfunded liabilities and we created thousands of new jobs. There was a surplus every year that I was governor.

 

West Virginia became a stronger state and one of the very few fiscally solvent states in this nation – all during the worst recession in generations. 

 

We solved the actual problems that were holding our state back - and those problems were not solved with partisan rhetoric or the mentality of "if you win, then I lose."

 

Not at all. West Virginians came together with a shared vision and a common purpose. And by working together we found commonsense solutions. And, in doing so, we made the future we all share better.

 

This commonsense model is by no means unique to our West Virginia.

 

I truly believe we can develop commonsense solutions to the problems our nation faces. Commonsense solutions defined not by party or ideology, but by doing what is right and what makes sense for our state and our country.   

 

I am committed to doing just that.

 

Of course, cynics will argue that gridlock is inevitable and that commonsense solutions are impossible because the partisan division in Washington is just too great. 

 

I say they are wrong.

 

While the legislative reality we face is divided government, it does not mean we must be divided.

 

In fact, since the day I was sworn in as a U.S. Senator, I have been fortunate to sit and talk with many of my Democratic and Republicans colleagues. Every time, what I heard was a profound love for this great nation and an unbreakable commitment to leave this country better and stronger for future generations.

 

While disagreements in how we solve our nation’s great challenges will occur, they need not divide us. I see these disagreements as an opportunity for us to seek the common ground that will unite us and move our nation forward.

 

And, I, Madam President, am committed to working with both sides to doing what is right to address the serious economic and policy challenges we face as a nation, and which are of deep concern to the hardworking people of West Virginia. 

 

I heard these concerns loud and clear during our most recent work period.

 

During those two weeks in January, I traveled more than 2,100 miles on my “Call for Common Sense” tour.

 

I held more than 28 events, and met with the unemployed, seniors, veterans, small business owners, young professionals, labor leaders, educators, leaders from our coal and energy industry, as well as leaders in manufacturing. I held town hall meetings in Wheeling and Elkins where West Virginians with diverse concerns came together to share their opinions.

 

Again and again, I heard their serious concerns about the economy and jobs, the need to protect coal and our energy industry, as well as the fears from rising debt and deficits.

 

I heard about what government was doing – or not doing – to ensure we keep our promises to our seniors and veterans. But what I also heard was a lot of commonsense ideas about what our country needs to focus on, and what we must do provide a more secure future for our children and grandchildren.

 

Addressing these top concerns - job creation, deficit reduction, energy independence and keeping our promises to our veterans and seniors – matter not only to West Virginians and me, they matter to every American.

 

With respect to job creation, our nation continues to struggle with high unemployment and a great recession that feels too much like a great depression for the millions of Americans looking for work.

 

For too long, we have seen America’s manufacturing sector decimated by the cruel irony of rules and regulations that make it easier to create jobs abroad than here in the United States. Madam President, West Virginians are not asking for a handout; we are asking for a work permit.

 

We’ve seen small businesses owners, the bedrock of our economy and our job growth, increasingly strangled by paperwork and regulatory obstacles that make doing business more difficult.

 

I believe that to create a thriving economy and jobs we must lessen the burdens of unnecessary rules and regulations. Bureaucrats should not be able to regulate what has not been legislated. We need to make government work smarter, and its agencies operate more efficiently and effectively. We’re not asking government to be our provider; we want government to be our partner.

 

I truly hope that we, in this session of Congress, will work together to reform our federal bureaucracy so that we can make sure our government works for us – instead of the other way around.

 

As a small business person, I know firsthand that the last thing any small business owner needs is more regulation or paperwork. It is why I was proud to be the lead Democrat to work across the aisle to cosponsor legislation, with my friend Senator Mike Johanns, to repeal the 1099 provision from health care reform.

 

I was even more proud to add my voice last night to the many Senators from both parties who showed that we can and will work together on commonsense reform of health care legislation. It is why I will continue to work with any of my colleagues to ensure we do everything we can to help small businesses – not just by improving health care reform – but also by strengthening the access to the capital and investment that small businesses so desperately need to create jobs.

 

Improving the opportunities for small business and boosting job creation will also depend on making difficult choices to rein in wasteful spending and rising debt.

 

As we learned last week, the fiscal year 2012 deficit is projected to be nearly $1.5 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office projects that under current law our national debt will reach $25 trillion by 2021.

 

Madam President, what I heard from my fellow West Virginians is that we must get our financial house in order.

 

My proud grandfather always told me that crippling debt will lead us to make cowardly decisions. America is not a country of cowards.

 

During a recent town hall I held in Wheeling, a young college student worried about getting married and having a family in the near future – because of the debt and fiscal burdens her child would inherit. For me, this young woman’s words are a tragic reminder of the consequences that will come from inaction. In America, no one should have to have second thoughts about starting a family because of his or her worries about our nation’s out-of-control spending and rising debt.

 

As I have said before, we, as a nation, can’t spend our way to prosperity.  We must confront our fiscal situation and be willing to make the right investments and the difficult choices. Doing so, for West Virginians, is just common sense.  West Virginians don’t go out and spend more money when they face tough financial problems. They cut back and live within their means.

 

And I believe America must do the same.

 

To that end, I believe we must declare a bipartisan war against wasteful spending and begin to take responsible steps to scour our nation’s budget for all waste and redundant programs.

 

In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop a commonsense strategy on how to best cut spending and address our rising debt and deficits. And, while these steps will require difficult decisions, I believe if we put partisanship aside and work together, we can have a bipartisan commonsense plan that improves our fiscal future and sets our nation on a new course for fiscal responsibility.

 

But strengthening our economy will also depend on our nation achieving not just independence from debt, but real energy independence.

 

As a Senator from a true energy state - the second leading producer of coal with abundant resources, a net exporter of electricity – I am very proud of the critical role West Virginians play in providing energy to our nation. I imagine the lights in this very chamber would be a little dimmer were it not for West Virginia coal.

 

Moving forward, achieving true energy independence demands that we not only start realizing the importance that coal has in achieving this goal, it means we must also stop demonizing one resource and start realizing we must develop a comprehensive plan that utilizes all of our domestic resources – coal, natural gas, the development of nuclear, wind and solar - so that we can, once and for all, end our dependence on foreign oil – within this generation. 

 

If we are going to be truly secure, we must declare our country to be energy independent, and every state in this great nation must do its part. West Virginia is using every ounce of its natural resources – our coal, our abundant supply of natural gas, biomass, wind, hydroelectric, solar – all of which should be used in the most environmentally responsible way.

 

As a country, we must stop buying oil from countries that promote violence against their own people and the United States. That’s just common sense.

 

I am also strongly committed to working with my fellow Senators to develop a realistic and responsible clean energy policy for the future that balances the needs of our economy and our environment. I believe we can achieve this commonsense balance while protecting the vital role coal, natural gas and our other resources play in our nation’s economy.

 

Defending the critical role coal and West Virginia plays in our nation’s energy production is one reason I submitted, today, my first piece of legislation – the EPA Fair Play Act of 2011 – which will check the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

 

I believe it is fundamentally wrong for any bureaucratic agency, including the EPA, to regulate what has not been legislated, to have absolute power to change the rules at the end of the game and to revoke a permit, as the EPA did in southern West Virginia’s Spruce Mine, after it was lawfully granted and employees were hired.

 

Giving any agency such absolute power will have a chilling effect on investment and job creation far beyond West Virginia and I am proud that there is already bipartisan support for my legislation. 

 

Madam President, achieving a brighter future for our nation will also depend on us keeping our promises to our seniors and veterans.

 

West Virginia’s seniors and veterans helped build and defend this nation and we have an obligation to them that we must never break.

 

As I traveled the state last month, I heard from seniors at breakfasts, in nursing homes, in courthouses, and at town halls about their Social Security being at risk. I made it clear to them that I will never support going back on our promises. I also heard their concerns about living for two years without a COLA increase, and I am committed to finding a common sense solution – a recalculation of the COLA formula to make sure it reflects the reality of the cost of living today.

 

To our seniors, Social Security and Medicare are not just government programs, they are promises made by a thankful nation to ensure a quality of life well-earned from years of hard work and sacrifice.

 

For our veterans, their sacrifices and patriotism know no bounds. They have answered the call of our state and this nation again and again. They have served with unparalleled honor and distinction. As Governor, I was so proud to have been Commander-in-Chief of the West Virginia National Guard – the greatest guard in our nation.

 

Madam President, West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states in the country, and we are proud of the number of veterans and active duty members that have served our military and served honorably and proudly.

 

During this session of Congress, I am strongly committed to working with my colleagues on legislation that will ensure that our veterans and their families have the best care and benefits they deserve.

 

That is why I am cosponsoring Senator Jay Rockefeller’s legislation to give the National Guard their rightful place on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our National Guard and Reserve forces have bravely assumed a major role in our combat missions, and they deserve a seat at the table along with our active duty forces. West Virginia’s National Guard and Reserve forces are the best in the nation, and as Governor, I was proud to be their commander-in-chief. Not only are they an operational force to be reckoned with on the front lines defending our nation abroad, they are also first on the scene during disasters here at home.

 

Looking ahead, addressing the issues of job creation, rising debt and deficits, energy independence, keeping our promises to our seniors and veterans will demand not just commonsense policies, but a renewed bipartisan spirit.

 

No matter how large the divide may seem at times, we must work together to find common ground to achieve commonsense solutions. I truly believe Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can and will work together to chart a new course for this nation.

 

It is why I am so proud and honored to have been selected to serve on such esteemed committees as the Armed Services Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Special Committee on Aging.

 

I look forward to working with Senators Levin, McCain, Bingaman, Murkowski, Kohl, Corker, and all my committee colleagues to address the wide array of issues and challenges that will come before these important bodies.

 

Whether it is my work on these committees or not, I am committed to working hard and being the best Senator I can be for the state I love.

 

Like all 99 of my colleagues, who are here for the right reasons, I will represent my state to the best of my abilities and work to make America stronger and my state proud.

 

I pledge to you that I will not only work with each and every one of my fellow Senators to find commonsense solutions, I will do what I can to usher in a new bipartisan spirit in this Senate and in this Congress. 

 

In that spirit, I will strive to always find that commonsense bridge that unites our parties and reminds us and the world that we, no matter what state we may represent, share one common and unbreakable bond.

 

We are all Americans.

 

We all share a love for this nation, for our families, for our children, and it is this bond which will unite us in these difficult times and which gives me the hope and optimism that once again we will rise above any challenge we face.

 

Madam President, I yield the floor.