Mr. Adams goes to Washington

Last week, I spent two days in our nation’s capital shadowing Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and it was an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

I was asked by my friend Ric DeRubeis, afternoon host of Real Big Talk with Big Ric WKKX-WVLY, why I made the trip. After all, Manchin and Capito send plenty of press releases and public statements and both are fairly responsive to requests for comment. Both do virtual press briefings where we can ask more than one question (Gov. Jim Justice could take a lesson from Manchin and Capito).

I decided to make the more than five-hour drive to Washington, D.C., and spend time with our U.S. senators because it became clear to me that both Manchin and Capito are in a unique situation. Probably not since the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd has West Virginia been in a position to benefit from federal legislation, namely the infrastructure proposals coming out of both the Biden administration and Congress.

No, there’s no bill as of yet. That will come with time. Like the tale of Goldilocks, President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan will be too hot for some and Capito’s Republican Roadmap will be too cold. Both sides will need to come together to work out a plan that all can walk away from partially happy. But between Capito’s starting point and Manchin working to bridge differences between Republicans and Democrats, West Virginia stands to benefit.

West Virginia has immense infrastructure needs and not enough money to go around, even with our budget surpluses. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will help with some of this, including water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure projects. Auditor J.B. McCuskey is working with cities and counties on how to best spend those dollars and track them. We’re just waiting on the U.S. Treasury guidance for the rules.

But that’s just the tip of the spear for what West Virginia needs, especially if Biden wants to cut emissions by half by 2030 and focus on climate changes and renewable energy. Our coal sector has suffered under eight years of regulations under former President Barack Obama that sped up what the free market was already beginning to do thanks to greater access to natural gas for electric generation. Despite many promises and lifting of some of those regulations, former President Donald Trump wasn’t able to reverse the slide.

Even our natural gas industry is hurting with pipeline projects being halted, warmer winters and the pandemic causing a reduction in electricity use. Both the coal and natural gas industry will be hurt under some of the initial proposals by the Biden administration. West Virginia’s congressional delegation will have to fight some of this, but what they can’t fight they can at least hold the administration accountable and make sure these communities are made whole.


Speaking on our congressional delegation, it was also fitting that the U.S. Census Bureau released the population numbers that will be used for redistricting. It’s no surprise that West Virginia will lose a congressional district after 2022, but that doesn’t make it sting less. That makes the next two years crucial, and it also raises the importance of the positions of Manchin and Capito and seniority. Not to lessen the roles of Republican House members David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, but there is no getting around the fact that West Virginia’s voice in the House will become even harder to hear.


I want to say a special thanks for the staffs of both Manchin and Capito who allowed me to be a fly on the wall, sitting in on committee hearings, meetings with constituents, walking to and from votes and being accommodating the entire time.

If you think our senators and their staff have it easy, you are dead wrong. They work very long hours. Their schedules change and fill up and change constantly. They’re always on the move to the next committee or vote or meeting, all while taking time to help constituents in West Virginia. How they balance it all, I don’t know. They’ve also been short-staffed due to COVID-19 with the remaining staff playing multiple roles and spinning multiple plates.

Whether or not you agree with them all the time, there is little doubt Manchin, Capito and their staffs are working hard for you. It’s truly a public service.


On a final note, I’ve been to the U.S. Capitol Building many times over the past 11 years. It’s probably my favorite building next to the State Capitol. I’m in awe every time I’m there. With that said, I was taken aback this time. Due to COVID-19, there are no tourists in the building. Only credentialed staff and press are allowed inside. Because most of the work happens in the wings of the Capitol and the Senate and House office buildings, there is no one in the rotunda or Statuary Hall. It was just me. I could have dropped a pin and you would have heard it easily. It was neat to have access all to myself outside a random staffer walking through. It also made me a little sad.

I was also shown some of the damage from the Jan. 6 ransacking of the Capitol Building by the pro-Trump mob. The building was still full of members of the National Guard. One thing I noticed: on Tuesday, the guardsmen were not armed. By Wednesday, many had sidearms in anticipation of Biden’s joint address to Congress Wednesday evening.

I appreciate their service and protection, but I hated they had to be there in the first place. A plaque is in the Capitol commemorating when Union troops were quartered during the Civil War. I hope these guardsmen and women get their own plaque, as well as members of the U.S. Capitol Police.


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