CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With Republican Donald Trump set to take over the White House in January, West Virginia’s congressional members are calling for a rollback of federal air-pollution regulations, a repeal of the President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and for the new president to support spending on infrastructure and miners’ pensions.
After years of criticizing and bemoaning the Obama administration’s regulations on mercury, sulfur and carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, West Virginia’s congressional delegation is looking forward to repealing the federal rules, which they almost unanimously blame for the continued decline in the state’s mining industry.
Republicans Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, Rep. Evan Jenkins, Rep. David McKinley and Rep. Alex Mooney also are likely to push for the repeal of Obamacare, which gave hundreds of thousands West Virginians health insurance for the first time but has been criticized for rising premiums nationwide.
“Last night’s historic election of Donald Trump is a much-needed step towards advancing an agenda that will prioritize working families and small businesses on Main Street,” McKinley said in a statement.
“This agenda must include the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, the rolling back of job-killing regulations and executive orders, and finally, a national energy policy that stimulates the economy and makes America more secure,” McKinley said. “I look forward to working with the new Trump administration and both parties in Congress to get this done.”
West Virginia’s Republicans said they believe Trump’s win Tuesday night — along with the party’s continued control of the U.S. House and Senate — was evidence of a mandate from voters throughout the country, even though he didn’t win the popular vote.
“The American people spoke loud and clear — they are tired of business as usual in Washington,” Jenkins said. “They are tired of being ignored, of their voices not being heard, of jobs lost, of opportunities denied, of crumbling roads and bridges, and of uncertainty about their families’ futures.”
Capito agreed, but added that she is hoping that Trump, who ran a combative and divisive campaign while also fighting members of his own party at times, would work with congressional leaders.
“This was a hard-fought, long campaign, and they deserve credit for tapping into the concerns of many Americans, including a majority of West Virginians,” Capito said. “Going forward, I encourage Donald Trump and his administration to work with Congress and propose practical, not partisan, solutions to issues like expanding broadband in rural America, getting our coal miners back to work and creating new opportunities for businesses and families who have been devastated over the last several years.”
Manchin said he is looking forward to working with Trump to end the proposed regulations on carbon emissions from power plants, which scientists say is the first step needed to combat rising global temperatures.
“I thought that President Obama’s energy policies were wrong for the country,” Manchin said, adding that he doesn’t believe carbon regulations would do anything to help the environment.
Manchin, a conservative Democrat who blamed the West Virginia Republican Party’s continued success in the state on “national Democrats” and Obama, said he believes he can work with Trump on things like tax reform and increased research spending for “clean coal” technology.
But Manchin said he still believes that the federal government needs to have “compassion” and to have a “humanistic approach” to it. He wants to push to make sure that the ACA is reformed, instead of being completely repealed, which would leave millions of people without insurance nationwide.
Capito said the health care law needs to be repealed but that she hopes to have some type of temporary plan in place until Republican lawmakers can replace it.
“I expect we will have a full repeal of Obamacare,” she said. “I’ve voted for it before, but I think we need to have a transitional plan. I’m not interested in throwing them into the cold.”
Another priority of Manchin and Capito under Trump’s presidency, they said, is to pass a federal law that would save the pensions of thousands of union miners in West Virginia and other states.
That law — the Miner’s Protection Act — has had bi-partisan support in Congress, but the bill has been held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who also has constituents who would benefit from the bill.
“I am going to reach out to the Trump transition team immediately,” Manchin said, adding that he is friends with New Jersey governor and Trump surrogate Chris Christie. “They have to ask Mitch about that immediately. It’s inhumane what they are doing. It’s wrong. It’s just pure wrong.”
While West Virginia’s congressional members have lashed out at the Obama administration for its energy policies, some of the state’s political leaders seemed to express hope that Trump would continue other initiatives started by the departing president.
Jenkins, for instance, said there needs to be a continued focus on diversifying the state’s economy and spending on infrastructure, something the Obama administration has started in coalfield communities with its POWER Plus initiative.
“We must diversify and revitalize our economy, to attract new industries to West Virginia,” said Jenkins, who has been in attendance when federal officials were announcing grants under the federal program. “We must invest in our roads, repair our failing bridges and build new highways to connect communities and create jobs.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had proposed a similar program during her presidential campaign, but Trump has not made public statements about whether he supports saving miners’ pensions or continued federal reinvestment in Appalachian communities.
The president-elect easily won West Virginia by promising to put miners back to work.
“I have already reached out to President-elect Trump’s transition team to offer my congratulations and to begin the push for an agenda to enact solutions to get our coal communities growing again, to invest in our highways and infrastructure, and to create economic opportunity for all,” Jenkins said.