Leading what he has labeled "Coffee and Common Sense," Sen. Joe Manchin told more than a hundred people who gathered last week that hopes to bring common sense back into politics. With that said, the Senator then apologized for the behavior of legislators in Washington, D.C. for the recent government shut down.
"That is something that never should have happened," he said of the fiasco in Washington that led to hundreds of federal workers being furloughed and countless federal facilities, including national parks, being shut down.
Manchin shared that during the shut down, he was answering phones in his office as he had to furlough staff.
"I heard what the people were saying," he said. "And they were raising cane." He went on to share in his opening remarks that what he has found is that people simply don't trust their government.
Manchin spent nearly an hour taking questions from audience members that ranged from topics including highways and infrastructure to healthcare.
Manchin said that stimulus money that had been set aside for infrastructure projects in the country instead went to "prop up government." He also questioned what could have been done on the home front with nearly $2 trillion that went into foreign wars.
"These were dangerous unbalances," he said, which led to a lack of focus on refurbishing our own country.
Remarkably few questions on the Affordable Care Act were posed to the Senator; however, there were comments made in favor of universal healthcare and expanded Medicare benefits.
Manchin expressed his thought that the Heathcare Act should come with a transition year.
"You can't even get online to register," he said.
He went on to say that "Nobody should be forced to buy more expensive coverage than what they have or less benefit that what they have."
A hot topic during the discussion was that focusing on gun control and second amendment rights. Art Thomm, vice president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, was joined by several other members of the League. Thomm questioned Manchin on the enforcement of laws already in place governing background checks. Manchin agreed that the laws have not been enforced to the level they should.
"Enforcing the laws that you currently have would be better than restricting (the rights of gun owners)" Thomm said.
"You're right, they haven't done a good job in the background checks, they haven't followed up, and they haven't enforced them. The problem was that there was never any penalty put on the states," Manchin said. "In the future, under a new bill, states will lose their law enforcement support money, and I guarantee you, they will start reporting," Manchin said.
Another topic that arose during the session, especially posed by high school students who attended, included college loans. Manchin encouraged the students to not borrow more than they need for their education. He explained that often students take every penny they are qualified for, which is often more than the cost of their college expenses. They then use the excess money for other thigns.
"Make sure you only borrow what you need," he stressed.
Manchin finished the day by reiterating that the worst problem in America today is the country's finances. He claimed that programs need to be examined for waste, although, he said, that doesn't mean a program should be eliminated.
"We need a balanced budget," he said. "But, he continued, "no one has the guts to do reform."