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Editorial: Senate needs Manchin's solution-oriented approach

Oct. 15, 2012 @ 08:38 AM

Joe Manchin built an enviable record as a leader in West Virginia, most notably during his six years as governor. He, along with the Legislature, tackled some tough issues, put the state's financial house in order, and handled crises in an admirable manner.

He established a record that basically reflected a middle-of-the-road approach focused on getting things done and not on pushing any particular liberal or conservative idealogy. That served him -- and the Mountain State -- well. His perspective on most issues basically reflected the attitude of a majority of West Virginians.

Now in his second year as a U.S. senator filling the unexpired seat of the late Robert C. Byrd, Manchin has found that building a consensus on urgent issues is far more daunting in hyper-partisan Washington, D.C., than it was in Charleston.

That's precisely one of the reasons he should be elected to a full six-year term as a senator representing West Virginia.

During his tenure in Washington, Manchin has proven that his top priority isn't to drive any particular party agenda, but to focus on advocating for positions that he believes will be best for the nation and West Virginia.

While still governor, he directed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency charging that it had over-reached in blocking permits for mines in West Virginia -- an action that has since been held up by the courts. As a senator, he has kept up his criticism of the Obama administration's policy regarding the coal industry and is instead advocating -- along with some other senators of both parties -- for an energy policy that reflects the importance of coal as well as other energy sources.

He has broken from Democratic party ranks on some issues, such as opposing an increase in the federal debt ceiling and pushing for substantial reductions in federal spending. He repeatedly has formed alliances with both Democrats and Republicans on various other issues, with the intent of seeking bipartisan solutions.

That sort of initiative is badly needed in Congress, where the wide gap between conservative and liberal elements in the Republican and Democratic parties has led to a woeful lack of constructive action. With a declining number of centrists such as Manchin serving in the House and Senate, prospects for reasonable approaches to the nation's serious problems will be even tougher to come by.

That's why it's important to return Manchin to office. His opponent, Republican businessman John R. Raese, has made it clear that he would take a highly partisan attitude to Washington, and there clearly is already too much of that.

Manchin says he is focused on the issues that matter to most of us: creating jobs, a balanced approach to fixing the nation's financial problems, energy independence for the country with coal remaining a key player, and keeping the country's promises to senior citizens and veterans. All are vital to West Virginia.

Something just might get done, if more of our representatives in Congress strived to work together, as Manchin has. Based on his record and his approach to his job, Manchin merits re-election.

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