August 07, 2011

EPA must consider balance | Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — With the ink drying on the budget deal, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., stopped in town Thursday to speak at Michael Aloi’s swearing-in ceremony as Marion County Circuit Court judge.

Long before the speeches were made, Manchin congratulated Aloi in his new office next to the courtroom where he will be presiding.

Afterward, Manchin came into the hallway where he was stopped for a few minutes by the Times West Virginian. The senator spoke about policy matters, the tea party and more.

During the past several months, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has laid siege to coal, a fuel source that provides more than 50 percent of the nation’s energy needs. The EPA has legislated regulations that have shut down coal mines and power plants.

Manchin said West Virginia’s congressional bipartisan delegation is pushing back against the EPA.

“We’re all working together on both sides of the aisle. All we’re asking the EPA to do is be cautious before you do something without having scientific evidence and to sit down with a balance in mind — the balance of the economy and the environment,” he said. “This is a fragile economy, a fragile job market ... We want to make sure we do it and do it right. But without scientific evidence or without the new technology, all you are doing is displacing people and making it more difficult for them without even a cure. We want to cure things.”

The first bill Manchin introduced in the Senate sought to curb the EPA’s power to regulate beyond the scope of its authority as determined by Congress.

“I firmly believe that any agency, be it state or federal, shouldn’t be able to regulate through rules what hasn’t been legislated through the bodies that’ve been elected by the people.”

Throughout the budget debate, leaders from both parties assailed each other with sharp words. Most recently, Vice President Joe Biden said the tea party “acted like terrorists” in how they stood against attempts to raise taxes and force spending reductions as part of the debt-ceiling deal, according to the website Politico.

“I know Joe Biden and he is a good man. Sometimes they all get caught up in the moment,” Manchin said. “That’s awful when the rhetoric gets to that level in Washington. You can’t let that happen. All the people who consider themselves the tea party or any party, I’m very appreciative they are involved in the process. They brought to light that this country is spending more than we can afford — we are not living within our limits. I just hope there is enough of them that want to work in the middle to where we can find common ground.”

Manchin stayed above the deficit fray, even going so far as to apologize to the American people for Congress’ inability to reach a deal that would have avoided default. Fortunately, a debt deal was approved last week, mere hours before Tuesday’s deadline.

Manchin said more needs to be done to provide equity in the nation’s tax code.

“Let’s find out if there is a better tax plan and if we have to revamp our tax laws to make sure that it is a level playing field, fair, and everyone is paying proportionally what they should be paying,” he said. “We don’t need the corporations like GE making billions and not paying any taxes. When billionaire Warren Buffett says his secretary is paying more in taxes than he is, that means you need tax reform. You don’t have to call that a tax increase or a tax rate increase, just a reform that’s fair. So I’m hoping we get enough of those who are really concerned about spending we have that’s way out of control, and I agree, but on the other hand, the levels of revenue we have coming in to run this country are the lowest they’ve ever been.”

A 12-member bipartisan Congressional Joint Committee will take up the debt debate in the months ahead by proposing deep cuts across the board. Based on the committee’s actions and recommendations, Congress is poised to vote on the second round of deficit reductions in December.

Manchin said he thinks there will be a pathway much sooner than that if it looks like it will be serious.

“I pray to the good Lord that the bipartisan committee is truly going to be one that is going to perform,” he said.

Congress has reached a bipartisan compromise to end a two week partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that idled tens of thousands of workers and cost the government about $30 million a day in uncollected airline ticket taxes, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

The deal would allow the Senate to approve a House bill extending the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September, including a provision that eliminates $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities, including Morgantown.

Hours before the deal was reached, Manchin said the issue was something in which his Senate colleague Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was taking the lead and had reached across the aisle.

“Sen. Rockefeller had a tremendous compromise that sounded very good to me, and was one that was based on ridership,” Manchin said. “If people are using the airport, then they would keep their rural airport open. If they weren’t using it, then they shouldn’t. That’s what it’s all about. I think Sen. Rockefeller has tried to meet them in the middle, and I would hope that they would be able to do that.”

As people began making their way to Aloi’s swearing-in ceremony Thursday, Manchin talked about the man he has known his whole life. Aloi is Manchin’s first cousin.

“I’ve known him since he was born,” Manchin said. “There’s never been a person that I’ve ever seen that was as destined to be in law and also to be in a position as judge where he will be fair and unbiased, having compassion.”

By:  J. Miles Layton