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Manchin Answers Questions From Magnolia High Students

March 6, 2019

United States Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) recently met with local Magnolia students via Skype to answer questions they had prepared for him. The students involved in this meeting were from the Advanced College History classes and Senior Civics classes, and also in attendance was Magnolia High School Principal Kathi Schmalz and Board of Education members Brian Price and Amy Cooley.

The Skype session began with Principal Schmalz, Price, and Cooley thanking Senator Manchin for taking the time to talk with the students of Magnolia. Manchin thanked them in return, as well as social studies teacher Keith Riggle for allowing him to talk with the students.

Five students were chosen to present the questions to the Senator.

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The first student was Olivia Mensore. Mensore asked Manchin if he was planning to run for governor in the 2020 election. His response was that he would "never say never," as it is necessary to keep options open as the future is uncertain. Manchin told Mensore he is proud to represent West Virginia. He went on to explain that everything he does in public service is in an effort to help West Virginia

"I've always said that if my state's doing well, my country is doing well, and vice versa." Manchin said.

Manchin also explained he is currently focused on the tasks he has now, and is content with that work. Manchin said he was working at "a very high level" on energy and natural resources, which he explained he is a ranking member on. It was said energy and natural resources affects the state and the security of the nation. Manchin said he's looking at ways to further improve West Virginia.

However, Manchin explained while he hasn't ruled it out completely, he hopes good people with the ability to run the state will step out and run for governor.

The next question was presented by Morgan Aliff, who said Manchin is a good example of bipartisanship and compromise in Washington. She then questioned what actions other senators need to take in order to do what she described as seeing Washington move forward.

Manchin said the biggest obstacle senators work around is the fear of getting defeated. This, he said, leads one to question if term limits are needed. Manchin explained if there was a term limit preventing one from serving more than two six-year terms at a time, then those in office wouldn't be so worried about getting re-elected in their second term and, instead, would put focus on completing tasks in their job.

The senator told students there is a serious issue when people in office are more worried about if the decisions they make can be used against them later in campaign ads, rather than truly running. Manchin also said if many people in office weren't continuously running for re-elections there would be a better atmosphere and improved attitude towards each other.

Manchin said the best politics is public service, and in public service one should never fear losing their job. It was in his opinion that if one is focused on this issue than they are not "doing very good public service."

While in this discussion, Manchin also said one identifying as Republican or Democrat shouldn't matter as long as they are are doing what is right for the state or country. He then went on to inform students that the government should be the best partner one has. However, he clarified that they are not providers, as that was not the oath he took, and it wasn't what the government was designed to do. Manchin explained government was not created to act as a "free ride," but instead to do what the senator described as have compassion and empathy to help those can't help themselves.

Following Aliff's question and Senator Manchin's answer, Lindsay Whiteman asked what actions the government can take to ensure better border security.

In lieu of answering this, he first asked how many students present believed there was a need for a border wall, and how many thought it was unnecessary. This question elicited in an almost evenly divided room. Next, he asked how many students believed there was a need for border security.

Nearly every students agreed this was a needed feature for the country. Manchin explained the issue of the wall was only part of the problem, and that fixing one portion is simply not enough.

The senator said that the public is only seeing "bits and pieces" of this, all mainly revolving around one's stance on the wall and immigration reform. However, he said that in 2013 a bipartisan bill was passed that acknowledged that there are 11-15 million people living in the United States WHO did not go through the proper channels. He said while there are many who snuck in through the southern border, most people living illegally in the United States came to the country on visas that later expired. Once their visas expire, they are considered to be living in the country illegally.

This bill acknowledged this fact, and said that if one was in the country illegally, they had 60-90 days to report to a federal court and admit to the crime. There, they would be charged with a misdemeanor, pay a fine, and be given a "Q number," which Manchin said was a pathway to citizenship. The conditions of this are that one learns English, works, and pays taxes; under this is the stipulation that if one commits a crime than they are deported. However, Manchin explained that deporting those who break the law is useless if there is no security to prevent them from returning to the country.

Manchin also said security is not needed just for the southern border, but also at the Canadian border as he said more threats come from that area, and that terrorists can get in far easier than at the southern border. He went on to explain that in the past there was $47 billion dollars given for border security, and now the government is "arguing" over giving $5 billion for the cause.

"We all voted for security, but back then we voted for common sense." Manchin said.

The senator explained it was in his opinion that the United States needs overall border security, which will require more than a wall.

Manchin mentioned a recent bill that had been passed that gave President Donald Trump $1.4 billion dollars for the wall, and $1.7 billion dollars for new technology to protect the borders. The senator said new apparatuses equipped with sensors and x-rays were needed for every port of entry into the country as currently only 20-30 percent of drugs and various other items being smuggled into the country are being caught. He then said that sensors are also needed on shipping containers as well.

Manchin said it's not merely about whether or not there should be a wall or if the country should allow illegal immigrants to stay, but rather a combination of many things. "It's (about) fixing the long term immigration, securing the border so we can stop it from happening, and secure our country." he explained.

The next student was Jacob Pennell who asked Manchin if - at the State of the Union Address when he was seen clapping for President Trump - he received "grief" from the members of his party. Manchin replied he had, but he was raised to show respect and to have manners and courtesy for others. He also said it is wise to learn to agree to disagree, and to still be civil and friendly with that individual.

Manchin explained that at the State of the Union Address, if President Trump said something he thought represented his state, he would stand and clap out of courtesy. However, he went on to say if President Trump would say something he did not necessarily agree with, he would still stand and clap. This is because, he explained, his purpose is to represent the state. He said he does not represent the state as a Democrat or a Republican, but merely as a West Virginian. As a result of this purpose, he stood and clapped out of respect for the people he represents, as well as courtesy to the president.

Manchin told the students there were people booing at him, but he said that it doesn't bother him as pleasing the people around him isn't what drives him. Rather, he has a responsibility to do his job and to represent all of the people of West Virginia.

Ethan Herrick followed this up with questioning Manchin if he ever planned to run for president. Manchin said he hadn't ever seriously considered it as he said that many areas are either far-right or far-left, and that it would be hard to govern from the middle.

Following this answer, Manchin told Magnolia students that part of growing and learning is making mistakes. While one must worry about the consequences of their actions, it is still likely they will make mistakes. The senator assured them that this is okay, and reminded them that no one is perfect. However, the fear of making a mistake should not hold them back in life, he explained.

Manchin also said that there are good opportunities in West Virginia and that one can enjoy life in this state. He explained they are in the process of getting Broadband high speed internet services "hooked up" all over the state, and that they are looking to set up job listings with benefits and the expected pay. While many say that there are no good jobs available in West Virginia, Manchin reported there are 10,000 jobs available with no one to fill the positions.

"We're counting on you all." Senator Manchin told the Magnolia students present.

Next, Mensore once again questioned Manchin. She asked him what makes him proud to be a West Virginian. Manchin explained that a large part of his pride resided in the history of the state. However, he was also proud of the traditions and heritage of West Virginia.

Manchin told the students that the state was one of two born out of the Civil War, signed into statehood by Abraham Lincoln. Manchin proudly said "Abraham Lincoln has his hand print all over us," and began to describe how our borders were formed. He explained the Ohio River was, at that time, the gateway to the west, and also said West Virginia played a large part in the history of the nation. Manchin told students much of the timber that built most of the northwest came from West Virginia, and the gas and oil - as well as the coal industry - aided in every war the United States has been involved in. According to the senator, West Virginia was also one of the first states to speak out against discrimination. He mentioned that John Brown chose Harpers Ferry to lead a crusade against slavery.

This all contributes to his pride of West Virginia. However, he also said West Virginia has the most hardworking, patriotic people he knows, and the state's overall beauty helps boost his pride.

Aliff then asked Manchin how he would personally change the way in which Washington operates. The senator said he would first make things more transparent in the way government works. He went on to say that Citizens United needed to be "overthrown" as there is too much money going into this organization. Lastly, he said election cycles need to be limited as not to overwhelm the public.

The last question given to Manchin was in regards to this year's State of the Union Address, and if he had taken anyone with him. While in the past Manchin said he has taken veterans, individuals from various opioid addiction places, and a first responder from Huntington, this year he took his wife Gail who was said to enjoy those types of events.

Following the last question, Keith Riggle thanked Manchin for the $1.4 million dollars secured from FEMA to repave Wetzel County roads. In reply to this, the Senator acknowledged there is much more to be done. However, the question remains on how they will fund this venture. Options currently under review are raising the national sales tax, raising gas taxes, and higher gas prices.

Manchin then explained people need to be held accountable, and there needs to be communication and a plan.

Once discussion on this topic ended, Senator Manchin thanked everyone for allowing him the opportunity to talk with the Magnolia students, and invited them to Washington D.C. to visit him sometime. He then said if he's ever in the area, he'd be sure to visit the school.

This was described by Principal Schmalz as an amazing opportunity for the students at Magnolia, and those present are sure to have gleaned some wisdom from the Senator.



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