U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told a gathering at the Lewis County Senior Center in Weston on Thursday that Congress needs to prioritize people over politics, something he said was done when he was the state's governor.
"People in Washington are so bogged down by the toxic atmosphere in politics," he said. "If you have a D by your name for Democrat or an R by your name for Republican, you're not supposed to work together. I'm not used to that. I'm a proud West Virginia Democrat, and I have friends who are proud West Virginia Republicans. But when it came time to fix the problems in West Virginia, we put West Virginia first."
Manchin said the federal government needs to put its financial house in order, making investments of tax dollars instead of just spending time inefficiently. He said the country needs to invest in the priorities of infrastructure, senior issues and education.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, right, greets Weston City Manager Michelle Allen during a stop Thursday at the Lewis County Senior Center.
"We are getting to the point where we are so weak financially, we can't help ourselves," Manchin said. "If one side wants to blame the other, it's not going to get fixed. It's everybody's fault."
Manchin said he wants to cut the Department of Defense's budget, but not in a way that brings detriment to the men and women serving in the military. He said about half of the agency's budget goes to private contractors doing the work that service men and women, along with the National Guard, could do at a savings to the budget.
"You have contractors making $700,000 a year," he said. "Most of the increases to the Department of Defense budget have been because of private contractors, not the men and women in uniform. When the military has to compete with private contractors, and it's the military controlling those private contractors, that's wrong."
He talked of a National Guard base in the Charleston area that refurbishes military equipment at an annual savings of $27 million. He said similar programs could be started across the country, utilizing those National Guards troops to perform support operations more efficiently.
Manchin also pledged to protect Social Security, saying the program should be allowed to work as originally intended.
"I want to clean up the mess we've made," he said. "You paid into it. You earned it. I am not going to let them change the core values of Social Security."
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