McKinley speaks to Rotary Club

PARKERSBURG – A U.S. congressman was in Parkersburg Monday to discuss issues facing the nation.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., spoke to members of the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday as well as the editorial board of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

He said there are three issues he has been following, involving sequestration, Obamacare and the Spruce Mine permit situation.

McKinley spoke about the sequestration effects, saying it was not a good bill to begin with. The initial idea was to feature negotiated and flexible cuts, but the Obama administration wanted across-the-board cuts, he said.

The country is now seeing examples of its effects and work is being done to fix some of the resulting problems, McKinley said. Congressional action last week to end the Federal Aviation Administration furloughs, which were causing flight delays, was an example, he said.

The House legislation gives the FAA additional flexibility to address the furloughs of air traffic controllers by transferring $253 million of existing funds to the operations account.

“We’re not going to stop trying to find ways to reach a balanced budget,” McKinley said.

He has been following the situation involving the Spruce Mine in Logan County. Just as the mine was about to open under a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulled the permit soon after Obama took office as president.

A federal court overturned the EPA’s action, which it appealed. A higher court recently ruled in the EPA’s favor, restoring its power to pull the permit. The issue may need to go to the U.S. Supreme Court before a final resolution is found, McKinley said.

He believes the EPA action will have a chilling effect in many areas, not just mining. If the situation continues, McKinley said, there is no way anyone can be certain whether approvals for projects or economic development might not be rescinded at a later time, causing severe economic impacts for everyone involved.

“It has a chilling effect on all of us,” he said.

McKinley talked about efforts to vote on one of the issues of Obamacare that ran into problems from both sides of the issue. When it was passed, Obamacare included a provision allocating $4 billion for people with pre-existing conditions.

As of this month, that money has been used up and there are still many people with pre-existing conditions seeking to sign up, he said. McKinley supported a bill last week to move money from another fund to bring another $4 billion into that section, but it was not allowed to come to a vote.

Supporters of Obamacare don’t want it changed, while opponents don’t want any of the problems corrected, only its complete elimination, McKinley said.

He said he is more concerned about the human side and wants to correct problems where he can while more long-term solutions are sought.

McKinley spoke on if the waste in government can be cut back, money would be available to handle concerns, including doing mental background checks some are calling for in dealing with gun violence.

Studies have identified billions of dollars annually in services that were handled by groups in government where only one or two would be needed, McKinley said. Money is also spent on duplication of services among groups, consulting fees and travel by groups, he said.

Conservative lawmakers want to see that waste cut down as a means of funding other needs, he said.

McKinley did not think the bill, co-sponsored by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin calling for more background checks and other measures in purchasing a gun, would have made it through the House if it passed. The bill was defeated in the Senate.

”This wasn’t going to solve the problem,” McKinley said.

Republicans have sponsored a bill to have an audit done across the country to see what kind of inventory is available in dealing with mental health issues that played a part in recent mass shootings.

”What do we have in our inventory for mental health,” McKinley said. ”What kind of facilities do we have, what kind of professionals do we have, how many professionals are we producing in our schools? We need that inventory.”

He said lawmakers are ready to sign on to such an audit, because no one knows what is available in dealing with these issues.