By Bill Rosenberger
Joe Manchin's re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate is leading him to talk less about his opponent, Republican John Raese, and more about the things he has learned since becoming a senator two years ago in a special election.
Manchin spoke Friday with The Herald-Dispatch editorial board for about 70 minutes, focusing on the state of the nation, the lackluster job of Congress as a whole and some areas he knows West Virginia residents are emotional about.
Those areas include the Environmental Protection Agency's policies on coal, federal health care reform and spending.
Manchin said he has been working with members of the Senate on getting legislation passed that would limit the power bureaucratic agencies have over states.
"States have the sovereign rights to govern unless they are not doing a good job," Manchin said, citing changes in safety regulations on the production of coal and for miners handed out by West Virginia agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection.
He said states can comply with the clean water and clean air regulations but charged that the EPA has created a moving target to create every roadblock it can. On top of that, Manchin said he is disappointed in the Obama administration for not developing an all-in energy policy.
"We didn't build this country on foreign energy or oil," Manchin said.
With health care, he said he supports reform but is open to making changes within the new Affordable Health Care Act. The problem, he said, is that those who want to repeal the reform aren't offering anything better. And, he accused anyone of saying the country's health care system was fine before "either weren't paying attention or are playing politics."
"If everyone has a form of health care, the idea is you will use it for preventative care," Manchin said.
If anything, there needs to be additional protection for doctors, Manchin said, citing forums with doctors who say they practice preventative care to prevent lawsuits.
He also said he was upset with the federal budget, saying there is too much spending and not enough investing. He cited audits conducted when he took office as governor of West Virginia that found wasteful spending which was then cut, as opposed to raising taxes as some suggested he do.
An area he is most critical about is the Department of Defense, which he said has too many contractors making more money than what would be spent on paying those currently in the military. Manchin said there are more than 100,000 contractors in Afghanistan doing work that soldiers can do for significantly less pay.
He also said the money spent on infrastructure in Afghanistan and Iraq is wasteful because there are folks there ready to blow up what the U.S. builds.
"Help us build a school or bridge in West Virginia, and we won't blow it up," he said.