WASHINGTON - A U.S. senator from West Virginia is applauding a national group for its opposition to cuts in Medicaid funding.
Congress is in budget negotiations with hopes of reaching a deal before the end of the year when massive spending cuts and tax increases kick in if a decision isn't reached.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Thursday said he agrees with the Children's Hospital Association, which in a letter to leaders urged Congress to avoid Medicaid cuts.
"Medicaid is a lifeline for our nation's most vulnerable families and children. We must not turn our backs on them," Rockefeller said. "We have tough budget decisions to make and it's essential that we find a real compromise solution."
The solution should include asking the wealthiest to pay a little more and not further burden struggling families, especially when it comes to health care, Rockefeller said.
The association sent letters this week to President Obama and House and Senate about the impact on Medicaid cuts, including 438,000 West Virginians.
"Our kids need the tools to succeed - that includes making sure they grow up healthy. With more than half of West Virginia children enrolled in Medicaid, we must make sure this program remains strong for our kids," Rockefeller said.
Twenty-three percent of all West Virginians are enrolled in Medicaid, he said. It is the primary resource for long-term care for the elderly "and is a serious job creator across the country," Rockefeller said.
In other news, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., lauded the Senate's approval of the permanent normal trade relations with Russia. The agreement passed the Senate 92-4 on Thursday.
"With a strong trading relationship with Russia, this agreement will increase our ability to create jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector," Manchin said. "West Virginia is already exporting nearly $10 million a year in goods to Russia, and this will only increase trading opportunities in important sectors to our state's economy. The strong bipartisan support for this agreement demonstrates that it will help all Americans compete on a fair playing field."
Normal trade relations status means a country promises to treat the goods and services of one country no less favorably than the products of another country. All countries except Cuba and North Korea have such status with the United States.
The decision ends about 40 years of restrictions and will allow U.S. companies to expand business relations with Russia, one of the largest economies in the world.
The White House said the president will sign the trade agreement.
Exports from West Virginia to Russia have grown 27 percent the past year and will increase with the trade agreement, Manchin said.