August 16, 2011

Manchin laments priorities in D.C. | The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin started the work week in Huntington Monday, with a stop at Pullman Plaza Hotel as part of what he is calling his Rebuilding America Tour.

He, along with some members of his staff, are visiting about 20 West Virginia cities to gather some input on the issues that concern state residents.

“We’re just trying to get this input — this back-and-forth,” he told the crowd Monday, which included several local business people, government officials and representatives from various groups.

In Huntington, he listened to concerns about a variety of issues, including Social Security, mountaintop removal, planned funding cuts affecting the Huntington Area Food Bank, and the end of the Marshall University-West Virginia University football game series, among others.

He also shared some of his thoughts on the U.S. Senate’s need to compromise, along with ideas about tax reform, trade reform and federal regulations that affect fields such as banking and coal mining.

“I never thought I’d see politics being played at the level it’s getting played,” he said. “When politics trump what’s best for this country, something has to change.” Polls are taken daily, but rather than being an effort to gain information to help find out what Americans want and need, they’re used for blame, he said . Manchin, who took office last November, said he’s been surprised to see how rarely U.S. Senators actually communicate with each other. He added, though, that there is a group of moderate senators of both parties — which he calls the Mod Squad — that he hopes can get together often enough to hammer out some solutions.

There needs to be more confidence in Americans, he said. He asked for a show of hands on issues such as the new healthcare bill, asking whether attendees would rather see a new bill drawn up from scratch or the current bill just reworked. Most said “reworked.”

He also asked their thoughts on where American troops should be, among other questions.

Manchin also handed out comment cards addressed to his office in Washington and passed out his contact information, inviting West Virginians to call, email, visit his website or stop by his office.

In terms of regulations, he shared about his co-sponsorship of the REINS (Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2011, which would require Congressional approval of any interim or final regulation from the Executive Branch bureaucracy that costs more than $100 million.

Manchin said he was told by American Electric Power of its plans to shut down three plants in West Virginia, laying off 242 workers. The reason was because it was too costly to meet regulations, which he said proves the need to rein in the EPA and other bureaucratic agencies.

Elected officials should be responsible for making major decisions that affect the U.S. economy, rather than bureaucrats who are unaccountable to the public, he said.

A conversation with a banker reinforced the same idea — new regulations are making it hard for banks to help potential clients, he said. Care needs to be taken, but there needs to be some balance.

“I think it’s good that he’s coming out to meet with people and tell us what’s going on — and hear our input about what we think is going on,” said Susan Hubbard, a retired educator who had some concerns about mountaintop mining.

Mike Perry attended as well. The retired banker who now runs Heritage Farm Museum & Village with his wife, Henriella, said he wouldn’t have gotten out so early if he didn’t think it would be worth his while to hear what Manchin had to say — and he said it was.

It’s interesting to hear Manchin’s thoughts on how politicians should find a way to work together to get some things accomplished, Perry said. Manchin helped create some compromise as governor of West Virginia, he said, and it helped get things done.

Perry said his major concern is that the American public is no longer being governed by the officials it elects, but by regulators who are appointed and seem to be accountable to no one.

“You don’t get a chance to vote on the regulators — in banking, health care, education, energy — anything,” he said. “Regulators should be directed by our elected officials (who are accountable to the voters).”

Manchin said he will run for re-election in 2012.

“I never thought I’d see politics being played at the level it’ s getting played. When politics trump what’ s best for this country, something has to change.” 

Sen. Joe Manchin

By:  Jean Tarbett Hardiman
Source: W.Va. senator seeks public input during tour of state