I am so pleased to be able to share with all the people of West Virginia that I have just passed the six-month mark as your United States Senator, and I am so proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together in that short period of time. Since I was sworn in as the 1,916th U.S. Senator in November 2010, I have focused on reaching out to you, the people of West Virginia and advancing a "Commonsense Agenda" in Washington -- an agenda about creating jobs, restoring fiscal responsibility, keeping our promises to seniors and veterans, and achieving energy independence within this generation. I am pleased to report that we have made progress in each area.
As you all know, I firmly believe in the philosophy of "retail government," which has guided my entire career in public service and continues to be the hallmark of my time in Washington. It is my job to ensure the people of West Virginia are treated like "preferred customers" and that you are always satisfied with the service you receive from your elected representatives. That's why I have made it a goal to reach out, stay connected, and learn about the commonsense concerns and issues that matter most to West Virginians. You are my top priority.
I've made a commitment to bring Washington to West Virginia -- you shouldn't feel like you have to come all the way to Washington to get the help you need for whatever is on your mind. Throughout my first six months in office, I have made a clear commitment to communicating with you:
* Conducting three statewide tours
* Visiting 29 counties
* Traveling more than 12,000 miles
* Holding four town hall meetings
* Speaking at nine courthouses
* Hosting 11 "Coffee and Common Sense" events with constituents.
I am also proud that my staff has addressed more than 1,800 constituent cases involving personal issues ranging from problems with Social Security, veterans affairs and Medicare to black lung benefits. Incredibly, my staff has visited all 55 counties, and they will do it again next week on our second-ever "Commonsense Connections" Week, which launches May 23.
Since I've been in Washington, I have sponsored or cosponsored 53 legislative measures, including my first bill, the EPA Fair Play Act, which would prevent the EPA from changing their rules on businesses after permits have already been granted, putting jobs in serious jeopardy. Bureaucratic agencies simply should not be able to regulate what has not been legislated, and I have made every effort to ensure that's not happening on my watch.
I've worked across the aisle on strong bipartisan measures to put our country back on the right track. I was very proud to have been the lead Democratic cosponsor on a measure that successfully repealed the onerous 1099 provision of the new health care law, which would have caused substantial burdens for small businesses by requiring them to file a report with the IRS every time they spent $600.
I have made a significant effort to reach out to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, get to know them, and find the places that we can work together to produce the commonsense solutions that the American people expect and deserve. To that end, I have sat down with 40 Senators on an individual basis -- 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans -- just to introduce myself. I have started a weekly bipartisan lunch with my Republican friend Sen. Mark Kirk from Illinois, and have been proud to sign on to a number of commonsense legislative initiatives that have bipartisan support. What surprised me most about this was that it surprises people in Washington to see someone reach out across the aisle!
Above all else, the best part of this job remains the ability to serve the people of West Virginia. Every town hall, "Coffee and Common Sense' event, every courthouse visit and every meeting is a privilege. Thank you for putting your faith in me and electing me as your United States Senator, and granting me the ability to serve you. May God bless the people of West Virginia, and please continue to reach out to me and my office so that we can hear your voice as I continue to serve.