By SEN. JOE MANCHIN
CHARLESTON -- I ran for the U.S. Senate to make a meaningful difference, to bring commonsense values to Washington and, above all else, to stand up for West Virginia families and our way of life.
Over the past five weeks, after more than 31 hours of caucuses, 21 hours presiding as Senate president and 46 roll-call votes on bills, resolutions, cloture motions and nominations, I have been committed to standing up for our state and representing all West Virginians to the best of my ability.
To that end, on my very first day as your senator, I met with Majority Leader Harry Reid and explained to him that the cap-and-trade legislation threatens our way of life. On day one, I secured a promise from him that cap-and-trade was dead.
I pledged to make reforms to the health-care bill and supported a measure that would have repealed the 1099 provision, lifting the heavy paperwork burden off the backs of our West Virginia small businesses. I will also continue to do what it takes to eliminate the adverse provisions of the health-care law, while supporting the positive aspects.
I pledged to fight for our seniors and supported measures like the Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act, which would have provided a $250 emergency relief to West Virginia seniors. I promoted and voted for the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act, which ensures that seniors and military families continue to get the medical care they need and deserve.
I fought to extend all the tax cuts, and I was proud to support a bipartisan compromise that not only provided unemployment relief, but also helped ensure that small business and hardworking West Virginians didn't face a massive tax increase on Jan. 1.
In addition, I voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have provided equal pay for equal work; helped pass a 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which will provide health care for first responders; voted for the Food Safety Modernization Act that protects our children and families from contaminated food; and, was one of 71 senators to ratify the new START treaty, a historic nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.
With respect to the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and the DREAM Act, I did not support these two pieces of legislation.
In the case of the repeal of DADT, my concerns focused only on issues of timing and implementation. These concerns were raised by two Service Chiefs, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, who had asked for delay of implementation of the repeal while our frontline troops are at war.
As for the DREAM Act, I strongly believe that the eligibility requirements needed to be strengthened and that there should be a degree requirement that ensures that these young people have all the tools and skills needed to achieve the American Dream.
Looking ahead to the next session of Congress, we face serious challenges. Domestically, we need to get our economy moving, grow small businesses and create American jobs. We need to address our rising debts and deficits. We need to achieve true energy independence. We need to restrain the federal government's involvement in our lives and make sure the federal government starts working for the people -- instead of the other way around.
Internationally, we need to address threats to our national security, as well as issues of trade, with the strategic foresight of always doing what is best for our nation's future.
Addressing these big issues, and so many others, will not be easy. I am only one voice out of 100 senators, but what the people of West Virginia know is that we, the American people, can accomplish great things if we work together with common sense and common purpose.
However, in order for democracy to truly work and for me to represent you to the best of my ability, I will continue to need your ideas and input. To that end, as your senator, I am committed to working across party lines, bringing people together as best I can, and always -- always -- doing what is in the best interest for West Virginia and the nation.
While at times it will be difficult to avoid the storms of partisanship, and while my positions on issues may at times differ with some of yours, or even my own party's, I will always listen to your concerns and share the facts as I know them in order to make the best decisions for our state and nation.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to serve West Virginia at the highest level, and I will continue to work hard to make you proud.
I wish you and your families all the best for the new year.
Manchin is the junior senator from West Virginia.