WASHINGTON - Federal lawmakers from West Virginia said something needs to be done to get people talking in order to end the shutdown of the federal government.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., held telephone press conferences from their offices in the nation's capital Wednesday with reporters from across the state to discuss the federal shutdown and ways it could be brought to a quick conclusion.
Both men said they believe the situation can be fixed if lawmakers would meet, start talking and work through the issues causing the shutdown.
House Democrats rally behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, as they tell the Republican majority they want a vote on reopening the government without clamping any restrictions on The Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. House Republican leaders have refused to allow their chamber to vote on that plan. (AP Photo)
"I am embarrassed and ashamed of Congress and the unnecessary harm that is being inflicted on our citizens and country,'' Manchin said. ''Shutting down the federal government is unacceptable. I truly want to apologize to all West Virginians.''
McKinley said the shutdown has resulted in thousands of federal employees being furloughed, which will cause a hardship on those people and their families.
''We did not want this,'' he said. ''I am disappointed.''
Neither man wanted to point fingers at individuals or party politics for the blame, instead insisting the time has come for people to meet to get something done.
''It is unproductive to assign blame,'' McKinley said.
One of the major divisions between federal lawmakers has been over the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare." Recent bills by the GOP-led House have tied the government's $986 billion continuing operating resolution to measures designed to defund the Affordable Care Act.
Manchin said many lawmakers would vote for a clean $986 billion resolution without it being tied to the ACA if someone would bring it to the floor, but those efforts have been sidelined.
The senator said he continues to have concerns about the implementation of the ACA. He believes parts of it are important to many West Virginians. However, some parts can be reformed, repaired or repealed, Manchin said.
''Don't throw it out,'' Manchin said of being able to work through the legislation and fix it. ''It is still not a reason to shut down the federal government.''
He said the penalities and fines connected to the law needed to be delayed for a year to allow for a better transition.
Given the choice, McKinley said he would vote to repeal the law, but said it is the law and steps can be taken to improve it.
''We have a chance to fix it,'' he said. ''Let's work with it.
''I don't like it, I would appeal it, but right now we have to move on.''
Manchin said the success or failure of Obamacare will occur on its own.
Manchin said the economy is uncertain with the implication of the bill; some employers are unwilling to hire people and others have had to lay off workers because of uncertainties over the health care law, he said.
Measures have been put forward to address or to delay aspects of ACA in one House, but many have been pushed to the side and not taken up in the other House, McKinley said.
In the West Virginia Legislature, when both houses pass a bill that covers the same issues, a conference committee is set up to try to bring both bills into a form that is acceptable to both houses. McKinley said something like that needs to happen in Congress to get people talking, but some won't even consider it.
''There is so much anger,'' he said. ''How can we get everyone in the same room?''
Manchin said he wants to "get people to the table." The fights over health care and other issues can wait for another day. Congress needs to get the nation's financial house in order, he added.
''We have a serious debt problem and it is not getting any better,'' he said.
Both men have reservations about raising the debt ceiling, insisting it won't fix the problem. Action needs to be taken to get spending under better control, they said.
Manchin hopes the shutdown will not last past the end of this week. Officials in both houses and both parties are meeting daily to see what can be done.
''We are looking at every option,'' he said.