MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Monday was Shelley Moore Capito’s six-month anniversary as a member of the U.S. Senate.
“I’m extremely excited at my six-month mark,” Capito, R-W.Va., told reporters Wednesday during a conference call. “We’ve settled into our main office. There are a lot of bright faces working for West Virginia and for me.”
Capito was elected during last year’s general election by an overwhelming majority to become the first female U.S. senator from West Virginia, and the first Republican senator from West Virginia elected to a full term since W. Chapman Revercomb in 1942. She replaced Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who chose not to seek another term.
“We’re getting things done,” Capito said of the GOP-led Senate. “We’re doing what the founders envisioned for the Senate. We’re a deliberative body, having healthy debates, offering amendments on the floor. We’ve moved nine appropriations bills, and, frankly, there were none moved under Reid.”
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was majority leader until the GOP won the Senate majority in 2014, making Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., majority leader.
“We passed a balanced budget for the first time in a decade,” Capito added.
She serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee; Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Environmental and Public Works Committee; and the Rules and Administration Committee.
As a member of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, Capito voted for a six-year, bipartisan transportation bill called the DRIVE Act – the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act.
“But the bill is not paid for – that’s the big question,” she said. “We’re hoping to get more definitive answers soon.”
The DRIVE Act would dedicate close to $300 billion over six years to highway and transportation funding.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
However, before Congress has a chance to debate the DRIVE Act, they must fund the Highway Trust Fund, which expires July 31. Another short-term extension of the current funding is expected.
Without funding the Highway Trust Fund, highway construction projects throughout the United States would probably come to a halt.
Congress will recess for the month of August.
“The Highway Trust Fund is a major issue, replacing roads and bridges, but new construction, too,” Capito said, answering a reporter’s question. “The states can’t bear the brunt of funding the highways. It’s a federal responsibility – always has been, and the federal government has to come in big. That’s why we have a federal gas tax.”
She would not support raising the federal gas tax, she said. She described the idea of raising the federal gas tax as a non-starter.
Capito is more supportive of “creative ideas,” like applying taxes on corporations’ overseas profits to paying for infrastructure upgrades, taxing miles traveled and maximizing public-private partnerships, she said.
Other areas Capito has worked on during her first six months in the Senate include expanding rural high-speed broadband for economic and educational reasons; addressing the “proliferation of the drug crisis in West Virginia and looking at treatment options;” veterans’ affairs; and health care insurance issues.
“I said I wanted to have a powerful voice for West Virginia,” Capito said. “I have a more powerful voice in the Senate, and I’m using it for West Virginia.”
– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.