2017-11-01 / Front Page

Manchin makes local stops on Town Hall tour

by Kate Shunney


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin talked to a crowd of residents at a Town Hall meeting on Friday, October 20. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin talked to a crowd of residents at a Town Hall meeting on Friday, October 20. A Town Hall meeting with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was pitched as a discussion on proposed federal tax reform but Morgan County residents had other issues they wanted to discuss during a two-hour event last Friday, October 27.

Questions and comments from a crowd of more than 160 people at The Country Inn repeatedly hit the topic of health care coverage and dealing with the fallout of addiction. Attendees also took different stances on gun control measures and urged better funding for schools.

Sen. Manchin kicked off a discussion of the current budget proposal in Congress, which he said he doesn’t support because it will add to the national debt and requires deep cuts to programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

The budget, he said, would add $660 billion in additional debt, raising the national debt to $31 trillion by 2027.


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin spent time with Morgan County students at Berkeley Springs High School on Friday, October 20 following a Town Hall meeting. Pictured, from left are: front row: Chloe Didawick, Cody Fisher, McKenzie Davis, Taylor Stotler and Aleah Hagney. Second row: Hailey Sailor, Spirit Kolb, Avery Cook, Catherine Myers, Morgan Golden, Kaleah Mellott and Aslyn Didawick. Third row: Erin Dodson, Anna McKee, Sydney Hovermale, Victoria Martin, Katey Banks, Caroline Ciardiello, Lydia Jenkinson and Grace Watson. Fourth row: Chris Dodson, Inonna Parsons, Kaylee Schlaefli, Matt Rubeck, Senator Joe Manchin, Katherine McLaughlin, Anthony Crone, Roman Kirk and Angelo Cocchiaro. Back row: Josh Kowalski, Billy Creek, Michael Bethmann, Korrick Fitzgerald, Henry Gill-Newton and Rhett Mauer. photo courtesy of Kate Stotler U.S. Senator Joe Manchin spent time with Morgan County students at Berkeley Springs High School on Friday, October 20 following a Town Hall meeting. Pictured, from left are: front row: Chloe Didawick, Cody Fisher, McKenzie Davis, Taylor Stotler and Aleah Hagney. Second row: Hailey Sailor, Spirit Kolb, Avery Cook, Catherine Myers, Morgan Golden, Kaleah Mellott and Aslyn Didawick. Third row: Erin Dodson, Anna McKee, Sydney Hovermale, Victoria Martin, Katey Banks, Caroline Ciardiello, Lydia Jenkinson and Grace Watson. Fourth row: Chris Dodson, Inonna Parsons, Kaylee Schlaefli, Matt Rubeck, Senator Joe Manchin, Katherine McLaughlin, Anthony Crone, Roman Kirk and Angelo Cocchiaro. Back row: Josh Kowalski, Billy Creek, Michael Bethmann, Korrick Fitzgerald, Henry Gill-Newton and Rhett Mauer. photo courtesy of Kate Stotler Proposed tax cuts are a risk, said Sen. Manchin, built on the idea that “if you cut one percent, you could get two percent back later.”

Manchin said his priority is watching out for working people.

“If they receive their money through a paycheck with deductions, I have to make sure they’re taken care of,” he said. “If I can’t come home and explain it, I’m not voting for it.”

“You never have to worry about the one percent. It always works out for them,” Sen. Manchin said of those in the highest income brackets.

Several times, Sen. Manchin said Americans need to decide if they still feel a duty to take care of people who are unable to work or are vulnerable in other ways.

“Do we have enough compassion to take care of them?” he asked.

One local woman said funding for public education needs reform.

“The fact that we have to fight to get a special levy through – we should have to fight to properly fund education,” she said.

A man who identified himself as a retired educator said he is very concerned about Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, and her moves to eliminate parts of special education plans for students. He said DeVos has a “special aim” to move students toward private schools.

“We don’t need that in West Virginia. Be very careful of what she’s doing, siphoning money away from public schools,” he said.

“Elections are coming up in 2018 and we haven’t gotten to the bottom of Russian interference,” one woman told Manchin. She said she is afraid of the integrity of the next election cycle, in light of campaign money from outside of the state and how Russian influenced the 2016 elections.

“These are not state campaigns anymore,” said Sen. Manchin. “West Virginia is going to be a $50-60 million race. Twenty-five million will be spent against me and $25 million for me and I don’t know them or who they are.”

Manchin said active campaigning by senators against each other leads to a poor working environment in the U.S. Senate.

“In West Virginia if you try to get your co-worker fired every day, they’re going to be waiting for you out in the parking lot,” he said, drawing laughter.

The former state governor said he wants to fix the Affordable Care Act so America doesn’t go back to the time before 20 million people got health insurance for the first time.

Manchin said people who got sick before universal coverage got medical care at the emergency room because they knew they couldn’t be denied care there, or made Worker’s Compensation claims to get medical attention for problems that happened off the job.

“We were using health care at its most expensive level,” he said.

A Morgan County woman said she is concerned about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) not being reauthorized. Her granddaughter needs very expensive medical treatment to stay alive, and she said she will move and adopt the child so military medical coverage can pay for the child’s medicine.

Another attendee said she has heard more stories of people on Medicaid being immediately denied the care they need, and having to argue with insurers to get procedures or equipment like an insulin pump.

Manchin got a round of applause when a woman thanked him for supporting the Affordable Care Act and the expanded Medicaid access it provided in West Virginia. She said she’s concerned about proposed Medicaid block grants to states.

Opiod and heroin addiction came up as concerns from Manchin and local residents.

“If we don’t do something, we’ll lose a generation,” said Sen. Manchin. “When you have a parent begging you for their child to be arrested, something’s wrong.”

He said there is never a problem finding a bed in a prison cell for someone with drug charges, but finding a bed in a treatment facility is not a guarantee.

One woman said children and seniors are other victims of addiction, from the theft of grandparents’ life savings to children being abused by adults.

Manchin proposed that pharmaceutical companies pay one cent for every milligram of opiates they produce. He said it would generate $1.5 to $2 billion per year and could drive down the supply of pills.

He has backed the idea of giving an addict a chance to wipe their criminal record clean of non-violent, nonsexual crimes if they complete recovery treatment, stay clean for a year and then mentor an addict for a year.

A local organizer of the Life or Drugs group told the senator a recovered addict should be clean for more than one year before mentoring someone in recovery. She also asked why some medical treatments for addiction cost so much less in other countries than in the United States.

Students from Berkeley Springs High School asked several questions, including one about proposed tax cuts: “How are we going to pass a bill in Congress if people continue to advocate for things that only benefit the one percent?”

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