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Manchin faces public at town hall meeting in Parkersburg


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va.  — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visited the Mid-Ohio Valley Wednesday, holding a town hall meeting at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., addresses a crowd of people Wednesday during a town hall meeting at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. Manchin answered a variety of questions, with topics ranging from the federal budget to climate change to special interest groups
(Photo by Michael Erb)

Hundreds gathered for the 90-minute town hall forum, with more than a dozen people asking questions about current events and topics of concern.

Those in attendance were given green and red cards to show their support or opposition to things said during the town hall meeting, though at times statements by Manchin or other speakers met with applause, boos or shouts.

Manchin took heat early in the meeting when he spoke about voting to confirm some of President Donald Trump’s picks for top federal seats.

Manchin was the only Senate Democrat to vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general, despite accusations of racism and civil rights violations.

“I never saw the kind of behavior he was accused of,” Manchin said to boos and shouts from the crowd.

Many in the audience raised red cards when Manchin talked about Trump’s nominee for U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was sworn in Monday. Manchin was one of only three Senate Democrats to vote to confirm Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice.

Manchin said he believed Democrats needed to work with Republicans to approve Gorsuch and then look to the next vacancy on the Supreme Court to appoint a more moderate judge.

Many residents expressed concerns over Trump’s proposed budget, which includes severe cuts to numerous federal watchdog and research agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and the Chemical Safety Board.

Rodney Wilson of Wood County held up a picture of his three grandchildren and talked about the area’s battle for clean air and water, asking how officials would enforce such standards while crippling agency oversight.

Manchin said it was a move he and other lawmakers would not support.

“I think they have to have adequate funding in order to operate,”Manchin said. “I’m not voting for (Trump’s) budget, I’ll say that now. I don’t think his budget will get a vote.”

Manchin also took issue with Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border of Mexico to prevent immigrants from entering the country illegally.

“I’m not voting for the wall either,” Manchin said. “This country needs an immigration policy. It needs a path forward. Building a wall is not going to do anything.”

Manchin also said climate change was a reality Trump and other administrators needed to face.

“Anybody that says 7 billion human beings do not have an impact on climate is not living in reality,” he said.

But Manchin added pollution is a world issue, and enacting job-killing restrictions on fossil fuels in the United States will not fix the problem globally.

Al Tuttle of Tyler County said the influx of special interest money into elections has led to only the richest and most extreme voices being heard in politics. Tuttle pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United, which allows money to be considered a form of free speech.

“That money just drowns out the voice of the lesser-funded opposition,”he said.

Manchin agreed, but said the Citizens United ruling could be dealt with legislatively and would not require a constitutional amendment to address.

Lydia Cobranchi of Parkersburg asked about the United States’ stance on refugees, and pointed to recent chemical attacks in Syria on civilians by the country’s own government. Born and raised in Jordan, Cobranchi was herself a refugee for a period in her life and said she knows firsthand the horrors of having to flee your home.

“Americans pride themselves on being a welcoming country,” she said. “It seems un-American to turn our backs on those wretched Syrians who need us the most.”

Manchin said he was sympathetic to the plight of refugees, but believes the U.S. has a responsibility to its citizens to make sure those allowed into the country will not cause harm.”

“I’ve seen (refugee camps). I’ve been there. Your heart bleeds. No one should live like that,” he said. “I still think we need to be extremely careful in our vetting.”

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