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Manchin hears West Virginians in Hinton


The Register-Herald

HINTON, W.Va. —Sen. Joe Manchin addressed the Affordable Care Act, opioid addiction, Syria, President Donald Trump, federal environmental regulations, women’s rights and other issues pressing on West Virginians on Thursday during a town hall in Hinton.

Sen. Joe Manchin addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting Thursday in Hinton.
(Photo by Chris Jackson)

Greeted by an estimated 200 constituents from Summers, Greenbrier, Raleigh and surrounding counties, Manchin spent 90 minutes visiting with constituents at the Freight Depot, answering their questions and placing some with caseworkers to address their needs.

Afterward, many of them thanked him for coming to Hinton.

“This is exactly what America is about,” Manchin said during the session to the crowd, where signs waved in support of Planned Parenthood and placards with handwritten “Agree” and “Disagree” statements flashed. “It’s democracy in its finest form.”

Manchin, who has proposed a bill that would place a tax on opiate manufacturers to build addiction treatment centers in the nation, said a lack of treatment centers is exacerbating the addiction epidemic. He advised West Virginians to be open about addiction, which killed 800 state residents last year.

“My family included, not one of us in this room doesn’t know somebody…that doesn’t have a drug problem, either prescriptions or illicit,” he said. “We’re all affected, but we’re afraid to talk about it.”

Manchin said that 20 years ago, he and other legislatures believed that those who abused drugs were criminals.

“I’ve changed my mind. It’s an illness,” he said. “Addiction is an illness that needs treatment.”

The United States, which is around five percent of the world population, consumes more than 80 percent of opiates, he reported.

Manchin’s proposal would tax opiate manufacturers one penny per milligram to fund treatment centers.

“I don’t have one Republican signing up for the bill,” Manchin siad. “I just need one Republican to make it bipartisan.

“We didn’t hesitate to put a tax on cigarettes…I can’t get one penny on opiates.”


Addressing ACA, Manchin said it’s impossible to repeal President Barak Obama’s health care legislation package and that fine tuning it to benefit more Americans is nearly impossible because of the failure of Republicans and Democrats in Congress to work together.

“We can’t repeal this,” Manchin said. “Whether you like it or not, we can’t repeal it.

“It takes 60 votes to repair it,” he added. “We don’t have 60 votes. We don’t have enough Democrats and Republicans that will work together and help together…so, the bottom line is, we have 20 million people who have never had health care who have it for the first time.”

He said various groups benefited from ACA, including those with mental health needs, substance abuse disorder, pre-existing conditions and seniors. President Donald Trump’s plan, which was rejected, called for a slashing $880 billion to Medicaid recipients and providing a $575 billion break to the wealthiest Americans.

“Why would they want to give a $575 billion to the wealthiest people in America? Why would they want to take away $880 billion from Medicaid, the poorest of the poor?” Manchin asked.

He cited problems in the private market, including high deductibles, high premiums and minimal coverage for the insured, after paying $15,000 in health care costs.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We can fix that, but there’s certain people in Washington that don’t want to fix anything.”

He added that some Democrats are “afraid to take ownership.”

Manchin said that he’s seen a recent shift from a core of Democrats and Republicans who would work together, as representatives have polarized to more extreme forms of conservatism and liberalism.

“We had 60 percent of those elected in the middle, pretty much common-sense, rational,” he explained. “It didn’t really matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican, if it made sense, they would do it.”

He said only around 20 percent is left in the middle today.

“Twenty percent can’t get the job done,” he said.


Citizens reported that eminent domain was being declared in the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, which impacts Monroe and Summers counties, in order to benefit corporations instead of the greater public good.

“When eminent domain has been declared, and it’s being declared only for the corporate good, that should not happen,” Manchin said, promising to look into the complaints.


A man urged Manchin to ensure protection for domestic abuse victims and children, and several speakers urged him to support equal rights for women.

Manchin said he fully supports equal pay for women and would be open to an equal rights amendment for women, if one were presented in Congress.

Speakers questioned Manchin’s vote to block funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides reproductive health care services to low-income women but does not provide abortions. Manchin, who said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases of a woman being raped or the victim of incest, or to save her own life, said he had initially supported Planned Parenthood because stringent investigations had shown that no federal money was used to pay for abortions, a move that would violate the federal Hyde Amendment.

He most recently voted against funding for the organization based on video footage that reportedly showed officials in the organization selling fetal tissue. Manchin said he was later informed the footage was unreliable.

Reminding those in the crowd of his pro-life position regarding abortion, he pledged to support Planned Parenthood again in the future.


He defended his decision to vote in favor of Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, Neal Gorsuch. Manchin said Gorsuch had been vetted in a reliable process and was suitable for the position. He added that Gorsuch is, in effect, replacing Anton Scalia, the late conservative justice and that his appointment does not upset “the balance of the Court.”

When questioned about his view of Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Manchin said he doesn’t deny that humans have an impact on the environment but pointed out that 8 billion tons of coal is burned worldwide, with the United States burning less than one billion tons.

Manchin said China burns 4 billion tons of coal and coal plants are being erected in India. U.S. regulations on coal will not impact those countries.

“Do you think they care what’s in the coal stack?” he asked. “They’re going to say, ‘You built your country.’

“I absolutely do care about the climate,” he added. “But..there’s got to be a balance between the economy and the environment.”


After the town hall meeting, Louella Lewis, 65, of Lewisburg, commended Manchin for the visit but said she had wanted more direct answers on some of the questions.

“I was very appreciative that he came, and I thought that there was a good opportunity to ask questions and receive answers,” she said. “My disappointment is that the answers were not always the definite, specific answer.”

Nancy Issenberg, 67, of Lewisburg, said she wants to see more high-tech jobs brought into the state, a topic that was not addressed at the town hall meeting.

“I appreciate (Manchin) is trying to work with the Republicans,” Issenberg, a member of the Greenbrier County Democratic Women, said. “If you don’t, nothing is going to happen, either way.”

Issenberg said she feels the country is “going backward” but took the advice of her 93-year-old father, who didn’t vote for Trump but told her that Democrats should support him, anyway.

“He told me, ‘He’s the president’ and to stay out of trouble,” Issenberg said. “That’s the reason I didn’t get up and yell today.”

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