Senators, representatives talk State of the Union

PARKERSBURG – West Virginia lawmakers in Congress took different views of the president’s State of the Union speech depending on party affiliation.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., downplayed the president’s proposals and was critical of the suggestion he’ll address climate change through executive orders. McKinley held a press conference with 1st District reporters Wednesday morning.

Obama Tuesday in his State of the Union speech called for job creation initiatives, spoke on the economy and recovery and additional steps for troop reductions in Afghanistan. The president also said Republican proposals to reduce the deficit shifted reductions from the military to cuts in programs helping the middle class, the elderly and education and job training and threatened executive orders imposing climate control regulations.

A concern is how an executive order impacts gas drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales and West Virginia’s abilities to attract a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker plant.

“It’s a very legitimate question,” McKinley said.

The discussion must be on the science, not on the politics of climate change, said McKinley, an engineer. Burning fossil fuels is a political reason for climate change, but scientifically there’s no connection whether it’s man-made, he said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also spoke to reporters from his office in Washington, D.C. The president took a bipartisan and cooperative tone, said Manchin, a chairman of a national group pushing for bipartisan problem solving.

However, he and Obama have a philosophical difference on energy. The president doesn’t include coal as part of a national energy policy, Manchin said.

“We just fundamentally have an absolute disagreement on this,” Manchin said.

Manchin also opposes amnesty in any immigration reform and the president issuing executive orders on climate control issues.

“I am totally in opposition to that approach,” he said.

America needs to invest in education, in manufacturing, in infrastructure and in technology to globally compete, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said. Reducing troops in Afghanistan in a safe and responsible way will allow resources to be used on other urgent threats, like cybersecurity, Rockefeller said.

“Tonight, it’s been encouraging to see that our national agenda touches on so many of the issues I hear about from West Virginians every day and priorities I have long fought for,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said. “Our focus must remain on creating jobs, building up our middle class, and supporting families who struggle.”

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has announced she will run for Senate in 2014, cited “the president’s misguided economic and energy agendas” in the State of the Union speech. Capito said she was disappointed and frustrated.

“President Obama has attacked West Virginia resources from Day 1 and it is clear that his extreme energy agenda will only pick up steam in his second term,” Capito said.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., agrees with the president on investing in transportation and infrastructure. He disagrees on energy policy.

“But, on the energy front, he is absolutely wrong in his misguided efforts to circumvent the Congress with unilateral regulatory actions that will result in job loss, especially when it comes to the (Environmental Protection Agency’s) unfair and inequitable treatment of coal mining in Appalachia, which the Congress and the courts are rightly resisting,” Rahall said.