Manchin weighs in on Obama

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said he appreciated the tone of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, although he was disappointed to hear that coal is again not a part of the national energy plans.

“It was more of a bipartisan tone than I’ve heard in the past,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said a day after the speech.

Manchin said he will continue to shout from the mountaintops about the importance of coal to America’s energy independence and to West Virginia’s economy.

“To deny coal in the energy mix is wrong,” he said. “That’s where I differ, and I will continue to speak loud and clear about that.”

Manchin said technology exists and is being developed to allow for cleaner-burning coal.

He said he understands the environmental impact the industry has, but said the carbon footprint is minimal compared to the rest of the world.

“The U.S. burns less than one-eighth of the coal in the world,” he said. “We can do it better if the government works with us.”

Manchin said he was pleased with how Obama discussed the financial picture of government, but said he would not vote for any further extensions or to raise the debt ceiling until a long-term solution to the situation is in place.

“We have gotten ourselves deeper into this financial mess because Congress would not act,” he said. “There are no excuses anymore, because the election is over.”

Manchin said it is time for Congress to roll up its sleeves and fix the problems.

“Sequestering was put on as a penalty. We all voted for it, and now they say it’s not supposed to happen,” West Virginia’s junior senator said. “Nothing happened, and now they don’t want to face the music. The president sounded serious last night, and I hope he follows through.”

Manchin also said serious steps need to be taken to address the issues balancing responsible gun ownership with the rash of gun violence in the country. He said he would like to see a commission study the links between violent media content, mental health and society’s desensitivity to these horrific scenes.

“We start with a very, very rigorous background check and a mental health check,” he said. “We get something that makes common sense and something that is needed.”

Manchin said he was pleased to hear the president’s talk of investing in early childhood education. Those are the investments we should be making in our country, he said.

Manchin said he doesn’t have a problem with the president’s idea of increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour by 2015.

“We have to make sure we are not jeopardizing the jobs we already have,” he said. “We need to encourage people to get better skill sets. But I know it’s tough out there.”