WASHINGTON — Following President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address — in which the president reflected on his first year in office and his administration’s goals for the next 11 months — West Virginia conservatives voiced their support for the administration and Trump’s proposals.
Trump stood in front of lawmakers for 80 minutes Tuesday evening, with the reaction among attendees in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber split. Members of the president’s own party applauded much of Trump’s speech, but most Democrats sat motionless during a majority of the evening.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said the president and the Republican-led Congress have set the United States on a path to make the country stronger.
“What a difference a year can make,” he said.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., called the address “outstanding.”
“Tragically, most of the key points, the Democrats sat on their hands. They need to stand up and cheer on for our American future,” he said. “They wore their partisan chip on their sleeves throughout the evening.”
Trump spoke about the economic gains made during his first year in office, noting low unemployment rates, “tremendous relief” stemming from the tax overhaul legislation passed in December and his administration’s work to roll back federal regulations.
“In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history,” he said. “We have ended the war on American energy and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal. We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”
The Trump administration has pushed for ending policy that would in turn ease pressure on the coal industry. This includes the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule aimed at addressing climate change through limiting greenhouse gas emissions at power plants through numerous means. One approach would involve investment in renewable energy technology.
As coal has declined, natural gas has seen a strong increase, with natural gas power plants generating more than 33 percent of the country’s electricity in 2016. Natural gas drillers have an interest in West Virginia, as the Marcellus and Utica shale formations lie beneath the state.
Trump also said lawmakers must fix “unfair trade deals” and protect American workers.
Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., said the conservative agenda touted by Trump has been well received in West Virginia.
“Due to recently enacted tax cuts, hard-working West Virginia taxpayers are seeing more money in their paychecks. The coal industry is finally beginning to recover after eight years of attacks from former President Barack Obama and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” he said in a press release.
Trump added it was time to fix the nation’s infrastructure, calling on lawmakers to put forward a plan that would generate at least $1.5 trillion in projects. He added partnerships should be fostered between state and local governments, and private sector investment should also be considered.
“We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land,” the president said. “We will do it with American heart and American hands and American grit.”
Jenkins, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said even as a fiscal conservative he understands the importance of infrastructure investment.
“The construction jobs and infrastructure that can be brought about and built through his vision and his commitment will make a huge difference,” he said.
Mooney called Trump’s plan “bold,” adding he sees the need for construction in West Virginia.
“I will continue fighting to ensure that West Virginia projects like finishing Corridor H, expanding the runway at Yeager Airport and increasing broadband access are included in the President’s infrastructure plan,” he said.
Trump pushed his four-part immigration proposal, which would offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants, but also fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and end the visa lottery system. The president tied immigration to the national opioid crisis, saying more must be done to address drug trafficking and providing assistance to those suffering from addiction.
Trump carried an underlying message of bipartisanship Tuesday night, asking both parties to come together to propose legislation. The address was held eight days after the federal government shutdown ended under the promise of a solution for those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
McKinley said he agreed with the president regarding the need for congressional teamwork.
“2018 is going to be a consequential year for Congress, and we must come together in a bipartisan fashion to address some of the biggest issues of our lifetime,” he said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the president laid out a clear vision for the upcoming year, and she feels Congress needs to work across the aisle.
“Let’s continue to encourage and drive economic growth. Let’s invest in America’s infrastructure to better connect our communities and close the digital divide. Let’s continue to move forward with an all-of-the-above energy strategy. Let’s strengthen efforts to fight the opioid epidemic and keep our country safe,” she said in a press release. “Like the president, I am confident our best days are ahead, and I will continue fighting for a bright and successful future for West Virginians and Americans across this great nation.”
West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Party said in a statement she applauded the goals put forward by the president.
“President Trump’s agenda brings hope and prosperity to all American families. Tonight we see why Americans elected Donald Trump to lead them, and his vision to make America great again!” she said.
Gov. Jim Justice — who rejoined the Republican Party in August — said he is excited about the infrastructure plan and proposals for economic growth.
“Donald J. Trump is a personal friend of mine and I know how much he cares for each and every one of us in this great nation,” he said in a statement.
Congressional Republicans will spend Wednesday through Friday at the Greenbrier resort for the party’s annual retreat. Vice President Mike Pence and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will speak Wednesday at Worldwide Equipment in White Sulphur Springs about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and Trump will give remarks Thursday at the summit.
The office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., did not provide a statement following the president’s remarks. Manchin was seen multiple times Tuesday applauding Trump and shook the president’s hand at the address’ conclusion.
Manchin invited Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader to attend the address. The Oscar-nominated documentary “Heroin(e)” highlights the work of Rader, Cabell County Family Court Judge Patricia Keller and Necia Freeman in addressing the opioid epidemic in Huntington.