WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) delivered her maiden speech on the Senate Floor. Video of the speech and the full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Watch Senator Capito’s maiden speech here.
Making Washington Work for West Virginia
Mr. President, I rise today to deliver my maiden speech as a United States Senator from West Virginia.
I am deeply humbled by the confidence placed in me by West Virginians. To serve as West Virginia’s first female Senator is a true honor and one that comes with great responsibility.
I hope to serve as an example for the next generation of West Virginians, including my own grandchildren Celia and Charlie and many others.
I find myself in a unique place in history and am grateful to and inspired by my loving family – my husband Charlie and our three children – Charles, Moore, Shelley and their spouses.
For fourteen years I proudly served the people of West Virginia’s second congressional district in the House of Representatives. I bring that experience to the Senate combined with a strong desire to make Washington work for West Virginia.
West Virginia has a time-honored history of exceptional Senators, including my predecessors Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd. I am appreciative of their efforts to better West Virginia during their more than eighty years of combined public service in this great body.
I am proud of our state’s rich history, culture and natural beauty.
But it is our people that I hold dearest to my heart.
West Virginians are strong and resilient. We are the embodiment of our state’s history.
Born of the Civil War, West Virginians fought for freedom in the face of great turmoil.
As a result, President Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation making West Virginia the 35th state admitted to the union.
Today, our state’s forceful motto “Mountaineers are always free” remains emblazoned in Latin on our state flag.
We will never forget the principles our great state was founded on.
The Mountain State is home to unmatched scenery and a wealth of natural resources that can power our nation’s economy.
A state filled with small towns, Main Streets and tightknit communities, West Virginians come together to solve problems and help neighbors in need. I have often said that West Virginia is one big small town.
West Virginians expect the United States Senate to find pragmatic solutions to the momentous problems confronting our country.
That is particularly true now, during this period of divided government.
There are clear differences among the American people, and those differences are certainly reflected here in the United States Senate.
West Virginia is represented by both parties in the Senate, and I look forward to continuing to work with my friend Senator Joe Manchin in the months ahead.
Together I hope we can reinstate respect for the institution – a place where deliberation and debate are valued and all voices are heard.
We owe it to the American people to do better.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have heard a clear and consistent message from West Virginians: improve the economic opportunities for our state, stop the bickering and fight for our jobs.
As Leader Mitch McConnell has stated, to do this the Senate must work more, have an open amendment process and take tough votes.
After all, that’s why we’re here.
Today I will outline how I plan to produce bipartisan, commonsense solutions in the United States Senate to make West Virginia communities stronger.
This plan will create economic opportunities by:
· Bridging the gap and tackling America’s infrastructure crisis
· Better connecting West Virginia and rural America through increased broadband access
· Caring for our nation’s veterans and ensuring a bright future for young West Virginians
· And, most importantly, implementing a commonsense energy policy that utilizes our vast natural resources to provide affordable and reliable energy
First, addressing our country's crumbling infrastructure is an area that can bridge the partisan divide and further economic growth.
American communities need a strong federal highway program and a full six-year bill to meet the needs of our growing population, to ensure safety for travelers and to offer opportunity for growth in areas that struggle economically.
West Virginians rely heavily on roads, bridges and highways to fuel our economy, to access hard to reach areas in our state, to get to and from work and to transport necessary goods and services.
U.S. Route 35 will drastically improve safety for motorists and local residents in Putnam and Mason counties.
Corridor H will unleash the economic potential of our state’s Eastern highlands.
U.S. Route 340 will help address congestion in our Eastern Panhandle.
And the Coalfields Expressway and King Coal Highway can help isolated communities attract businesses and provide jobs.
Point Pleasant’s Charles Lanham, a well-respected gentleman, had a vision. With his friend, Jack Fruth, they began a crusade for their community.
For many years, Charles has worked to build the case for a four lane U.S. Route 35 – a project that would provide a secure route to get our children to and from school and serve as a regional transportation artery between Interstate 64 and the Great Lakes region.
Charles understood the economic and safety benefits the road could provide – and has fought for them.
Working with Charles, we have made significant progress on Route 35.
Our states need certainty to invest in their transportation infrastructure. That certainty comes from a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill, which will bring these projects to reality across the country.
Working together we can – and we must – achieve this goal.
Now is the time to move our transportation system forward.
Second, I am committed to expanding access to broadband in communities across West Virginia and will be a champion for connecting our state.
High-speed internet access is a pillar of our 21st Century infrastructure and a gateway to economic growth in rural America.
High tech businesses can power our small communities.
The world literally can be at your desktop.
Unfortunately, for all the potential opportunities that broadband can offer to rural America, not having this important service can place an almost insurmountable barrier to economic development.
These areas risk being left behind.
In Capon Bridge, a lack of broadband access is an obstacle to attracting jobs and economic development. Sadly, Capon Bridge is not unique in this regard.
Small communities across West Virginia and elsewhere in rural America lack this fundamental infrastructure – and lack access to vital opportunities as a result.
The answer for Capon Bridge is not a regulated Internet.
Too much government control will be counterproductive, choking off private sector expansion projects and hindering new technologies.
But we have to recognize that there is a role for government in helping broadband reach hard-to-serve communities.
We should leverage resources at all levels of government and encourage public private partnerships to expand access for rural Americans.
This is a necessary and achievable goal. It may sound like a small desire, but connectivity is essential to compete and thrive.
Health care access is also critically important to West Virginians.
We must continue to provide access to our veterans and children.
West Virginians have a strong history of service to our nation. These brave men and women have put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedoms.
It is our solemn responsibility to care for them when they return home.
These American heroes deserve the best possible treatment and top-notch mental health services.
Access to care can be especially challenging for veterans who live in rural communities.
Many West Virginia veterans must travel significant distances to reach a VA hospital.
In many cases, allowing these veterans to receive treatment closer to home is both more convenient for the patient and more efficient for the VA system.
While we have made strides to improve access for our veterans, the current program is not working as well as it should. More must be done.
Expanded access to private medical providers will help improve the quality of care that we offer to our veterans.
Our children in the Mountain State also deserve quality health care.
If our children – the next generation of West Virginians and our future leaders – are going to realize their potential, they must have a healthy foundation.
A solid education and good health are pillars for the success of future generations.
As a parent and grandparent, this is personal.
We must work together to continue funding the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
I started my legislative career in the West Virginia House of Delegates, where I served on the committee that first implemented S-CHIP in our state.
Today, this program provides access to health care for tens of thousands of West Virginia’s children.
Maintaining this program is a priority that I share with my predecessor Senator Rockefeller, who was a tireless advocate for children’s health insurance during his three decades of service in this body.
I am encouraged that senators in both parties have recognized the importance of providing continued funding for the bipartisan S-CHIP program.
Finally, and of critical importance to West Virginia and the country, we need to work together to implement a commonsense energy policy.
We need an affordable and reliable energy policy that utilizes our state’s vast natural resources.
We need a policy that grows the economy and creates new job opportunities.
We need a policy that supports a strong middle-class.
And, we need a policy that ensures we continue to improve safety and our environment, even as we expand energy production.
The administration’s overreach has contributed to thousands of coal miners losing their jobs in West Virginia and our neighboring states – devastating local economies and families.
Last year I met a laid-off coal miner from Raleigh County. After losing his job, his church came together to prepare meals for other coal miners and their families while they searched for work. Neighbors helping neighbors – the West Virginia way.
But, this was a stark reminder of the impact that misguided federal policies can have on the lives of real people.
Anti-coal policies impact more than miners and their families. In West Virginia, the attack on coal mines reduces revenues for education programs, roads and other public services.
Higher utility prices caused by overregulation mean fewer jobs in energy intensive manufacturing.
And, sadly, lower income families and senior citizens who live on fixed incomes are disproportionately impacted by higher energy costs.
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, I will lead the fight against excessive government regulation that has been devastating to my state.
There are many areas of energy policy where we can find common ground.
While the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards are misguided, we should continue to make the use of fossil fuel cleaner and more efficient.
We must continue to support important research at Morgantown’s National Energy Technology Lab and other labs that will allow us to make environmental progress even as we continue to use our energy resources.
Natural gas is a large and growing part of West Virginia’s economy.
As a child of Marshall County, the heart of Marcellus Shale development in West Virginia, I am delighted to see this community come alive with opportunity. It is proof positive that an energy economy is a jobs economy.
We need improved energy infrastructure in order to make full use of these gas reserves.
We need new natural gas and oil pipelines that safely connect producing regions with manufacturers.
We need new markets that can make use of these vital resources.
We need a pro-exports policy that will benefit our country in multiple ways.
The nation will see more jobs and investment, more security, and a more independent future.
And, at the same time, we can strengthen our relationships with important allies overseas by providing the energy they need.
These are just a few ideas that I hope to refine and accomplish during my first term in the Senate.
Notably, there are other very important issues like national security, fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget, and replacement of the Affordable Care Act that I will focus on.
Our plate is full and expectations are high – as they should be.
We need to roll up our sleeves and deliver.
I am optimistic that we can find solutions that move our country forward.
There will be differences of opinion and philosophy along the way, but Americans expect that we bridge those gaps.
Senator Byrd, the longest-serving Senator said it best, “I love this Senate. I love it dearly. I love the Senate for its rules. I love the Senate for its precedence. I love the Senate for the difference that it can make in people's lives.”
Fighting for West Virginians always has – and always will – be my top priority.
I am honored to represent the great people of the Mountain State as we strive to create a strong and prosperous future.
Now is the time to make Washington work for West Virginia.
I stand ready to do my part.
I yield back the balance of my time.