CHARLESTON, W.Va. — President Donald Trump’s visit to West Virginia on Thursday will focus primarily on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the legislation that went into law in December to provide corporations and individuals with tax breaks.
The event will be held at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center. It will not be open to the public.
This will mark the president’s fourth stop in West Virginia since he took office in January 2017. He spoke to Republican lawmakers in February at a retreat held at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs.
Special assistant to the president Cliff Sims said West Virginia — a state Trump won by 42 points in the 2016 presidential election — holds a special place in Trump’s heart.
“Obviously, a lot of the coal miners and hard-working men and women there who came out in big numbers to support his candidacy and now, once he’s in office, doing everything he can to advance an agenda that defends their interests and promotes their interests,” Sims said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have both accepted invitations to attend; Jenkins voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney also voted in favor, as did Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
“We know that less regulations, we know tax cuts, putting more money into people’s pockets is having a very positive effect in West Virginia,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins pointed to a economic growth of 3 percent during the first quarter of 2017 — the second largest growth in the country — as a sign of Trump’s impact in office. The increase between January and March 2017 — which includes final weeks of the Obama presidency — was fueled by increased production in mining and natural gas, in addition to growth in the health care and wholesale trade industries.
The state’s real gross domestic product increased by 2.9 percent in the third quarter of 2017.
“What a difference a year makes,” Jenkins said. “What a difference an election makes.”
Morrisey did not return a request for an interview, but said in a press release it was an honor to be invited.
“President Trump has been a dear friend to West Virginia. His policies and emphasis on federal deregulation are giving new life to West Virginia coal and the state’s economy as a whole,” Morrisey said. “It’s been a privilege to work hand-in-hand with President Trump and his administration in repealing his predecessor’s anti-coal agenda, securing our nation against illegal immigration and in pursuing all avenues to defeat our state’s deadly opioid drug epidemic.”
One item that could be brought up Thursday is Trump’s actions regarding tariffs; he signed two orders last month placing a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and 25 percent tariff on steel from countries with the exception of Mexico and Canada. Trump unveiled a plan on Tuesday to subject more than 1,300 Chinese goods to a 25 percent tariff.
The suggested tariff would affect electronics, technology and medical products. The proposed tax is in response to allegations that Chinese government practices are negatively affecting intellectual property.
“The president is a deal maker, he’s a negotiator,” Jenkins said. “I think he is on the right track to stand up for American jobs, and I would not be surprised if the issue of tariffs come up.”
Sims said the president is concerned about a $375 billion trade in goods deficit with China that has not been reined.
“People can send their goods into our country, we can send their goods into their country without being penalized,” he said. “We’re simply not going to stand for our products getting hammered, out exports getting hammered going into other countries and nothing happening on the other end.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was one of the 48 senators who voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year. He issued a statement Wednesday evening, saying West Virginians deserve answers regarding issues such as protecting health care insurance coverage, if Medicare and Social Security would be cut to fund the law and why the individual tax cuts are not permanent (the rate changes expire after 2025).
“These are important questions that deserve answers during tomorrow’s event in White Sulphur Springs. We need to quit playing politics with West Virginians’ lives,” he said.
Jenkins and Morrisey are both running in the Republican primary for Senate, in which the winner would likely challenge Manchin in the November general election.