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A year of common sense

By Staff | Nov 22, 2011

One year ago this week, I took the oath of office as your U.S. Senator. It was so hard for all of us to believe it when our beloved Senator Robert C. Byrd passed, but I believed that the challenges we faced in Washington were so grave that we needed a strong voice for West Virginia to continue in his footsteps.

I am so proud that in the past year, I have maintained my independence and stood up for the people of West Virginia, regardless of politics or political parties. And for the past year, I’ve worked hard every day to bring bipartisanship, our commonsense values, and smart West Virginia policies to Washington D.C.

Let me give you a sense of everything my office and staff have done over the last 12 months to bring government closer to the great people of West Virginia and to live up to my philosophy of retail government.

I’ve personally traveled more than 18,000 miles to 45 counties.

Three times this year, members of my staff have traveled to all 55 counties in a single week as part of Commonsense Connections to get feedback, answer questions and offer whatever help we could. They also held 19 events with federal agencies on topics ranging from Caring for Your Aging Loved One to building small businesses.

My office has handled more than 3,500 individual cases and we’ve sent more than 78,000 pieces of mail to answer people’s questions about Washington.

I held five town halls and 14 “Coffee and Commonsense” events in cities and towns all over our great state.

And in Washington, I’ve met with all 99 of my colleagues which is something that not every Senator can say.

I hope that every single person in West Virginia knows that they can always reach out to me with ideas, priorities and concerns, and I hope that you do.

Now, when it comes to the issues, you know where I stand on so many of them, but let me recap some highlights. When I first took office and gave my maiden speech on the Senate floor, I vowed to focus on four priorities as part of my commonsense agenda:

creating jobs

restoring fiscal responsibility

achieving energy independence within this generation

keeping our promises to seniors and veterans

When it comes to creating new jobs, I truly believe that investing in infrastructure creating good American jobs for Americans working on American projects is the best way to put people back to work. I also believe that in this tough economy, we shouldn’t send our good jobs overseas, which is why I voted against three trade deals this fall that would have sent a combined 214,000 American jobs overseas. Finally, I truly believe that to create good jobs, government needs to work as our ally, not our adversary, which is why I have worked so hard to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s job-killing overreach.

And I have been working across the aisle to push my colleagues on all fronts to achieve energy independence within a generation, using all of our domestic resources, whether it’s coal, natural gas, biofuels, solar, hydro, nuclear or wind. We have to end our dependence on oil from countries who want to do us harm, which is why I have sponsored or cosponsored so many pieces of legislation that will allow us to rely on the energy that comes from our own country.

This fall, the major debates in Washington will be about putting our fiscal house back in order, and when I was governor of West Virginia, we did just that. Along with nearly 150 other Senators and members of the House, I’m encouraging our leaders to support a debt fix that creates fairness in our tax system and responsibly cuts our spending.

When I first came to Washington, one of the things that surprised me most were the scare tactics that get used on our seniors and veterans. Well, I know that we can prioritize our seniors and veterans when we live within our means, and I will fight to keep our promises to those who have built this country into what we are today.

At the end of the day, it’s actually really simple. As difficult as these issues are, I believe we can overcome any challenge if we just agree to put aside the political attacks and campaigns, and work together.

The decisions we make in Washington are not about a President, a single Senator, their party, or the next election they are about the doing what is right for the next generation.

That is what I am focused on, and will continue to be every day I am fortunate enough to be the Senator from West Virginia.