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Joe Manchin: Finding solutions requires working together

Oct. 11, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.

Many of my fellow West Virginians tell me that they are sick of hearing about Washington's gridlock. I agree. I am deeply frustrated to see the effects of all this partisan bickering. Our country is facing difficult challenges and this fighting is not helping us solve anything. Our economy is vulnerable, our national debt is enormous, we rely on other countries for our energy needs and American jobs are being sent overseas.

It's not that my colleagues don't want to fix these problems, but they certainly don't rush to cross the aisle to solve them. I've been working hard to show my colleagues that the only way to break the gridlock is to work together to find commonsense solutions.

We didn't pull these stunts in West Virginia when I was governor. We were willing to get our hands dirty, to come to the table, to have a genuine and respectful discussion on the right direction for our state. And sometimes that led to a respectful agreement to disagree, but at least we moved forward and made a decision.

I want my colleagues to know that this type of respectful discussion can work in Washington. And it can break the gridlock.

In September, I brought Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson and Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, leaders of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to West Virginia for a financial summit. We had a respectful, bipartisan discussion about the impact of our national debt crisis and how to get our financial house back in order. The Bowles-Simpson framework is not perfect, but it's a good starting point for getting our country's finances back on track. I want my colleagues to see that when we come together, remain respectful and focus on commonsense solutions instead of politicking, we can finally put our country back on solid financial footing.

We can use that approach on other important issues, like energy. We are at a real fork in the road when it comes to our energy needs. We can choose to remain dependent on foreign oil and continue to send American jobs and money overseas, or we can choose to work together to create a comprehensive plan that finally creates American energy independence. We have many energy resources in our own backyard, including coal, natural gas, ethanol, wind, solar, and hydro. With innovative, advanced technology, American companies are finding cleaner ways to produce energy for our households and businesses. But we must start working together to support and develop all these different energy sources so we can truly become energy independent. Energy independence keeps American jobs and money here, where it belongs.

I introduced legislation, with a Republican Senate colleague, to encourage American energy independence because I know that working together on legislation accomplishes a lot more than fighting and blaming each other. It's the same reason I brought my Senate colleagues, Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Ron Wyden, to visit West Virginia in June. I showed them how our state is a leader in innovative energy production with our coalfields, wind farms, hydroelectric plants, Marcellus Shale sites and solar energy portfolio. Our state serves as a great example for the rest of the country on developing diversified energy resources and moving toward energy independence. We've shown that rolling up our sleeves and moving past party politics can create real commonsense solutions. We can show Washington how working together solves problems.

This isn't an easy time for our country right now. We face some serious challenges and we have tough decisions to make if we want to create a better future. We can't waste time worrying about how we got here or who is to blame. How we got here is not as important as where we go from here. I want my colleagues to see that working together is the only way we can move forward. We've done it here in West Virginia time and time again. If we bring everyone to the table, put politics aside and focus on making the country better, we can break the gridlock and identify commonsense solutions for the next generation.

Joe Manchin, a resident of Farmington, is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from West Virginia.

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