By DANYEL VANREENEN
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. Alex Mooney, R-2nd Congressional Region, greeted fellow West Virginians at the West Virginia State Society Congressional Reception in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Pete Deremer, president of the State Society, said the event is one of two annual gatherings to ensure West Virginia is present in D.C.
The non-partisan, nonprofit society aimed to honor a new congressional year and honor the work the West Virginian representatives do for the state, according to Deremer.
The representatives offered a few comments at the beginning of the event, and Capito said she was dedicated to making West Virginian voices heard in the Senate.
“I know everyone is passionate about the issues, and it’s an honor to serve you,” Capito said.
Mooney said he was raised to fight for freedom, hard work and personal responsibility.
Once the representatives spoke briefly to the crowd, individuals from the state began speaking out for issues they felt passionately about.
Russell Mokhiber, a Morgan County constituent, said he and other constituents were attending the event to speak with representatives about issues such as health care, a living wage and environmental issues – including the proposed Mountaineer gas pipeline.
One constituent asked why West Virginia representatives have not held town hall meetings more widely throughout the state. Another individual brought up the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“The ACA has been a total disaster,” Mooney said. “Like it or not, you will be better off with the new healthcare plan.”
Manchin reaffirmed that he would not vote to repeal the ACA.
“Why should we undo what we have and start over when we can fix the plan we have?” Manchin said. “We agree on so much — the tax credits, staying on parents insurance until 26 — I’ve called on my colleagues to work together to fix healthcare.”
The crowd continued to ask questions, and after approximately 10 minutes of a town hall discussion, Mooney left the reception.
“I don’t have time,” Mooney said in response to questions from media.
Capito left immediately after her comments as well due to prior commitments.
Manchin stayed to answer questions from constituents, however. A hot button topic for many was environmental regulations. Many in attendance were upset that Manchin had voted in favor of coal companies.
Manchin said he felt the regulations imposed by the Streams Protection Rule were overreaching.
“The rule was made to kill coal,” Manchin said. “We must find a balance between jobs and economy.”
Before Mooney left, he said he was proud of the state’s coal industry.
In addition to constituents looking for answers and representatives, many businesses attended as well.
Keith Busby, human resource manager at the Martinsburg Procter and Gamble site was at the event.
According to Busby, steel beams will be erected at the Martinsburg site by the end of the month, and the company recently hired a new group of local people.
“We’re still looking for more help,” Busby said. “To apply people can go to pgcareers.com and apply for the manufacturing plant technician for the Martinsburg site.”
Alan Perdue was representing Shepherd University as well. The university is one of the State Society’s sponsors, according to Perdue.
“We’re excited to be here representing Shepherd University,” Perdue said.
In general, the representatives expressed their pride to represent West Virginia and said they would act as a voice for constituents.
“I’m very proud of our state,” Manchin said. “We have challenges such as the workforce and the opioid epidemic to overcome. We have an awful lot going on right now.”
Manchin said the town hall style debate was what representatives should be doing.
“It’s tough right now,” Manchin said. “But I’m proud of West Virginia.”
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