March 23, 2012

Manchin speaks with community leaders about economic development as a region | The Hagerstown Herald-Mail

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.— U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin told community leaders in the Eastern Panhandle Friday to pick their top priority to spur economic development as a region and avoid only looking out for their own small territories.

“You can’t go down (to Washington, D.C.) there with a wish list and think we’re going to do it all,” Manchin, D-W.Va., told a bipartisan group of political and business leaders at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg.

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The “Coffee and Commonsense” lunch-time session was the last of four stops that Manchin made before leaving Martinsburg Friday afternoon for Fairmont, W.Va.

Manchin also spoke to members of the 2012 state champion Good Times Show Choir at Martinsburg High School; participated in a roundtable with the Jefferson County Development Authority; and also congratulated members of the 2012 state champion AAA boy’s basketball team at Hedgesville High School.

Manchin said in an interview that he always enjoys visiting schools, but also visits the region to hear from the community about their concerns on economic issues.

“I want to make sure that ... if I hear something that doesn’t make ... sense to me, I’m thinking, we’ll make sure that everybody else is hearing the same thing I’m hearing,” said Manchin, citing concerns about getting the nation’s financial house in order, overreaching federal government regulation, the war in Afghanistan and the lack of an energy plan.

“People can’t afford to pay $4 gallon gasoline, and it’s going to go higher,” Manchin said.

Manchin said he sometimes feels like he is on political island in Washington.

“That doesn’t bother me at all. The Democrats understand that I’m a pretty free agent, and they’ve been very courteous towards that,” said Manchin, who is seeking re-election this year.

“And Republicans know that if I think they’re wrong I’m gonna jump. If they have a good idea, I’ll vote with it, and if Democrats have a good (idea), I’m with it,” Manchin said.

Manchin was urged in the Martinsburg meeting to support cancer research funding; efforts by the Eastern Panhandle Inland Port Coalition to establish an international port of entry in Berkeley County; and to reverse proposed changes to the Metropolitan Planning Office structure in a pending federal transportation bill.

Manchin also was asked about the federal overreach in laws such as No Child Left Behind, the identification-card program meant to prevent another terrorist attack and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

“There’s some people who just don’t have a birth certificate,” Manchin said of the ID law, agreeing that some of the regulations are “pretty onerous.”

Manchin reiterated his support for reining in EPA decisions, citing the impact of regulations regarding the Chesapeake Bay and the coal mining industry.

When asked to continue to support infrastructure projects, Manchin said the money being spent on the war in Afghanistan could be spent in the U.S., noting nearly $600 billion had been spent there. He said it didn’t appear to him, after visits there in 2006 and last year, that the country was any safer.

Manchin said that before Robert Gates stepped down as the secretary of defense, he told him and other members of the Armed Services Committee that the debt was the nation’s “greatest threat,” not terrorists.

“He didn’t hesitate,” Manchin said of Gates’ quick response.

By:  Matthew Umstead