It was one year ago Tuesday that U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., began serving the unexpired term of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
To mark the milestone, Manchin spoke with state media outlets and shared some of his and staff members' accomplishments since taking his oath of office.
"(We have been) trying to bring the Washington government a little closer to the people of West Virginia; and ... bringing a little common sense and our philosophy of government to Washington," Manchin said.
During the last year, Manchin has met with each of the 99 senators. He explained that the conversations with each of his colleagues enabled him to learn more about them as individuals, their families and their state.
"For far too many of us, we don't have the time or make the time to know each other ... outside of the political arena," he commented. "I think it gives you a little bit of personal identification when we're working on bills."
As a senator, Manchin has stopped in 45 of West Virginia's 55 counties. Manchin's staff members have visited each county as part of his "Common Sense Connection" tour, which was created for residents to share concerns with his office.
Manchin said the biggest issue still facing the nation is creating and maintaining jobs in all different sectors, and having an education system that prepares the future work force.
The second major concern to Manchin is fiscal responsibility. He said he's "frustrated and disappointed" that national leaders have not done more to correct the country's financial problems; however, he pledges to continue working toward making sure it is corrected.
"If you're not fiscally strong, you're not in a position to help anybody," Manchin said. "You're not in a position to help any of the people who really need the help, and you're not able to take care of yourself and the priorities based on our values."
Programs that assist the most vulnerable in society, including children and seniors, cannot be cut; but government can be more responsible with money, especially because it's estimated that $125 billion is wasted annually, Manchin said.
"Can we run all these programs more efficiently?" Manchin said. "Absolutely; but it's government's responsibility and we should be held accountable and responsible for our accountability."
Manchin is in favor of a "fair" tax system - one that doesn't increase rates, but ensures that people are not able to use "loopholes" and credits that give them advantages over most Americans.
If a new tax system with everyone paying his or her fair share were put into place, Manchin said he thinks the tax rates could decrease.
With the additional tax money, Manchin and some of his colleagues want to see 70 percent go toward debt reduction with the other 30 percent used for infrastructure.
"That way you're not growing government ... and you're truly taking care of the needs," he said.
"It's a shame in the 21st century not to have an energy policy in this great country," he said. "I'm going to work on that."
Manchin touted West Virginia's energy resources - coal, wind and gas - and said he is in favor of making the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil.
At the same time, he wants to see government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, stop regulating what has not been legislated.
Contact Carra Higgins by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.