When I’m home, West Virginians have made it clear to me time and time again that they would rather Congress focus on working on behalf of the American people on issues that really matter.
Impeachment fatigue is looming on many of us.
After months of circus-like hearings in the House of Representatives, the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump is finally here in the Senate.
Impeachment is a serious issue that deserves the Senate’s undivided attention, and my colleagues and I intend to treat this process as such and perform our constitutional duty.
At the same time, I understand the frustration many feel when you think about the issues affecting everyday West Virginians and how they are being put on the back burner during this trial. Up until this impeachment trial, the Senate was actually getting work done.
Just before Christmas, President Trump signed into law two critical comprehensive appropriations packages. These bills received relatively little press, despite the fact that they have huge consequences for West Virginia—and the entire country.
The appropriations bills, which detail how the federal government is spending your taxpayer dollars, were in the news cycle briefly—before it was on to the next “breaking news” in Washington.
As a leader on the Appropriations Committee, my job is to be a responsible and prudent steward of taxpayer money. I worked hard with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find compromise and support programs that reflect our national priorities, including:
• 3.1 percent pay raise for our military members.
• More than $500 million in funding to continue efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.
• Funding for Violence Against Women Act STOP grants.
• An increase of $350 million for Alzheimer’s research.
• Significant funds for highway maintenance and infrastructure.
• $81 billion for health care for our veterans at VA centers.
Additionally, as Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I’ve worked closely with the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security to make sure they have the resources needed to effectively do their job, stem the tide of illegal immigration, and stop the flow of drugs into West Virginia.
Throughout this entire process, I made sure Southern West Virginia was not left behind.
Wastewater infrastructure and potable water resources are critical in rural areas, especially in the southern part of the state. Last year, Mercer, McDowell, and Wyoming counties all received federal grants for wastewater disposal. This year’s funding bills including a $43 million increase to support aging water and wastewater infrastructure.
The bills also included $7.47 billion to support the Bureau of Prisons, including Beckley’s federal prison, and I was able to include language that calls for improved hiring practices to reduce the officer-to-prisoner ratio. I’ve spoken directly with Attorney General Bill Barr about this issue, so I’m optimistic conditions in West Virginia’s federal correctional institutes can improve.
We also made sure to continue supporting small, regional airports with the Airport Improvement Program. Raleigh County and Greenbrier Valley airports have both benefited from this funding last year.
When it comes to economic development, I fought hard to make sure critical programs like the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) are properly funded to ensure they have the resources to continue to grow and diversify the economy of southern West Virginia. Over the past few years I have worked with these agencies on projects that support entrepreneurship development, build and extend critical infrastructure, and support existing manufacturers in the region.
For example, EDA has invested funds in Bluefield’s Commercialization Station and the Center for Applied Research and Technology that will support new manufacturing startups and advance robotics research. Both EDA and ARC have provided critical funding for infrastructure improvements in Mercer, McDowell, and Monroe counties that are not only allowing manufacturers to grow, but they are also providing service to countless households and helping support the growing tourism economy in southern West Virginia.
This is the kind of work Congress is capable of doing — and should be doing. I’ll continue to listen acutely during the impeachment trial and do my duty as an juror, but I’m looking forward to getting back to work for the American people and delivering real and meaningful solutions.