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West Virginia's Congressional delegation disagrees with Obama's State of the Union speech

January 20, 2015
In The News

West Virginia's delegation in Washington, D.C., had mixed reactions to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, but each representative tended to disagree with the President.

Obama started off his speech talking about improvements he has helped make for the economy. He only mentioned the energy sector twice, noting the Keystone XL pipeline bill and lower gas prices.

"We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet," he said. "And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power," Obama said. "Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump."

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said while he was glad President Obama focused on the recovery of the economy, he missed the mark in moving forward to commit to helping the middle class and boost development so "everyday West Virginians and all Americans are able to succeed."

“A lot more still needs to be done," Manchin said in a statement following the speech. “I am hopeful that the President's proposals on tax reform begin a meaningful debate to get our financial house in order. It's past time to find a commonsense, comprehensive pathway toward fixing our long-term spending and debt problems. Our current tax system is needlessly complex, economically harmful and, often times, unfair. The President and Congress should work together to reform our tax structure to help lower rates by closing unfair loopholes and deductions while also ensuring American businesses stay on U.S. soil.

“Finally, I was disappointed that the President did not focus more on promoting energy efficiency and investing in advanced fossil fuel technology that would strike a balance between a healthy economy and a clean environment. In order for America to become energy independent and ensure energy prices remain affordable and reliable, we need to use all of our domestic resources, including coal.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she was hopeful Obama would "reach that hand of cooperation" out to Congress.

"Unfortunately he didn't. He still was proposing some of the divisive policies that you always see in a campaign, and I think the way to get confidence back in this country and certainly in West Virginia, is to get West Virginians back to work," Capito said in her statement following the speech.

"Whether it's an energy bill like the Keystone pipeline that we're working on in a bipartisan way in the Senate right now; whether its coal policies to get our coal miners back to work; whether it's an infrastructure bill where we're building roads and bridges and building toward the next century in terms of our highway and transportation system. There's lots of things we can do together. A tax reform bill where we can work together across the aisle to figure out tax policies that are fair that will get small businesses creating jobs and get people working again.

"Those are the kinds of things where we have common ground. We could work together. We could have a new tone here in Washington. We could seek solutions to the deep problems without the divisiveness and the gridlock that we've seen in the past."

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., said Obama unfortunately showed he is "entrenched behind Washington gridlock for the sake of partisan politics."

"Rather than support common sense ideas to create more opportunity for all Americans, the President continues to use unilateral executive action to push his allies' radical agenda. The President has promised to use his veto power to halt the implementation of policies such as the Keystone XL Pipeline, which the American people strongly support," Mooney said in a statement. "This intransigence has real world consequences for the people of West Virginia. The energy industry in our state is under assault by the President's EPA. Everyone supports clean air and water, but the President's EPA has declared war on West Virginian jobs to please activists and special interests in Washington. The Republican Congress and I want to empower American families to safely seek prosperity from our natural bounty. We support policies to lower energy prices, create jobs, and encourage investment in a secure energy future for our nation.

"In his speech, the President also attempted to re-ignite class warfare by proposing damaging new tax hikes. I believe this is an insult to the American people who last November demanded cooperation and common sense policies rather than useless rhetoric."

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said he also agreed President Obama focuses on what "divides us" rather than "unites us."

“Voters sent a clear message of change to the president in November, yet President Obama continues with business as usual. Tonight's State of the Union was more of the same – more spending, more tax increases, and more class warfare," Jenkins said. “What unites us is a desire to build a better country for our children and grandchildren, to work together to solve the problems our nation faces. Tonight could have been an opportunity for the president to signal his intent to work with Congress – Republicans and Democrats, members of the House and the Senate – to reach agreements on the serious issues we must address. While he mentioned energy production, he missed the opportunity to embrace our nation's most abundant and affordable energy source, coal like that produced in West Virginia. Instead, the president made it clear that he will continue to act alone and ignore the constitutional role of Congress to write our nation's laws.

“Republicans and Democrats in the House have passed dozens of bills with broad bipartisan agreement, proving that Congress is capable of working together to write and pass important bills. We should work together on issues important to West Virginians, including making coal a vital component of an all-of-the-above energy plan, passing a transportation bill, and kickstarting our economy to protect and grow jobs. We need a president who is willing to join us in the journey of working to make our country better, not one who would rather act alone.”

President Obama also spoke about climate change.

"2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century," he said. "I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act. Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.

"The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it."