February 21, 2020

Manchin talks opioids, impeachment at Charleston town hall | Charleston Gazette-Mail

Addressing a crowd of about 200 people Friday at the University of Charleston, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., touched on a number of topics, ranging from the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump to the opioid epidemic, during a town hall meeting.

Manchin, who has been traveling the state while the Senate is not in session, held a similar event Wednesday in Huntington.

Prior to a question-and-answer session that lasted nearly an hour, Manchin spent about 35 minutes discussing recent legislation he has introduced. One of the bills would charge drug manufacturers 1 cent per every milligram of opiate produced in the country. He said opioid manufacturers should help pay for treatment for the addictions they have caused.

“Every milligram that you produce in your factory, you pay one penny. That one penny will produce over $2 billion a year, and every penny of that will go toward treatment centers,” Manchin said.

West Virginia’s senior senator said the fallout from the opioid epidemic is now affecting children in the state. The Gazette-Mail reported in July 2019 that 10,000 children in West Virginia public schools were homeless, a number Manchin said Friday he thinks is even larger.

“These are kids that have no home to go to and no bed to sleep in,” he said. “They sleep on somebody else’s couch ... or they live in a car.”

He said the last thing a homeless child worries about is finishing their homework or studying for a test. Manchin said he’s sought help from the U.S. Department of Education on the issue.

The senator also has introduced the Clean Start Act, which he said gives criminal offenders with substance abuse disorders a one-time chance to erase a felony conviction for nonviolent or nonsexual crimes.

Manchin said the longer someone has been addicted, the more likely that person is to end up charged with a felony.

“When you get a felony,” he said, “it’s hard to get a job.”

Under Manchin’s proposed legislation, a person would have to complete a treatment or recovery program, then complete a peer mentorship program to have a felony conviction expunged.

On the subject of impeachment, Manchin said he made his decision to vote to convict Trump after listening to Alan Dershowitz, the president’s defense attorney, present his closing argument.

“[Dershowitz] said, listen, if the president thinks it’s in the best interest for the country, then he’s able to do it,” Manchin said. “I’ve never had anything go through me more than that.

“I’m sitting there and said, ‘That’s not how I understand the country that we live in and the democracy we have.’”

The Democrat-led House impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges. The GOP-led Senate acquitted him of those charges in an impeachment trial. Both decisions were on near party-line votes.

By:  Joe Severino