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New Year, new Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new Congress will be getting to work with the start of the New Year.

The members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives who make up the 114th Congress, those set to serve during the final two years of President Barack Obama’s presidency, will be officially sworn into office during ceremonies Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Among the members of West Virginia’s Congressional delegation will be two freshmen in the U.S. House — 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.).

“I look forward to getting to work for the people of West Virginia here,” Mooney recently said. He is taking the U.S. House seat U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) had held since first being elected in 2001.

Capito has replaced retired U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) whose last official day, after 30 years in the U.S. Senate, was last Friday. She will serve on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee along with the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mooney has described his transition into office, following Capito, as a “smooth” one. He has been appointed to the U.S. House Committee on the Budget and the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.

“A lot of what we’re going to deal with is simply access to the wonderful, precious resources that we have here in West Virginia,” he said. In general, Mooney said he supports tapping into public land, especially out west, for resources. “There’s a balance there, of course, and I think we obviously need to protect our natural resources,” he said.

The Endangered Species Act is coming up for renewal. “Again, it’s the same question. We want to protect our endangered species, but not go too far where humans lose their rights and we don’t have rights to our land,” Mooney said.

In West Virginia’s 3rd District, Congressman Jenkins has replaced longtime Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) who, up until Friday, had represented West Virginia in the U.S. House since first being elected in 1976.

Jenkins is one of two freshmen members, out of 57 U.S. House freshmen total, assigned to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. “The Appropriations Committee assignment was one that we worked on very hard beginning on the night of the election,” he said. “It took a lot of legwork to position ourselves.”

With oversight for $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending each year, Jenkins said the Appropriations Committee can use the power of the purse to change policy. It’s a power that he said could be directed at the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Jenkins plans to revisit a budget increase the EPA was granted in 2009 that, according to him, included language to advance “devastating” environmental policies for the coal industry. “We can go in with the next appropriation to the EPA and roll back the funding increase and take out the language,” Jenkins said.

In West Virginia’s 1st District, Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) is returning to office for a 3rd term. He first took office in Jan. 2011 and retains his position on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the only Democrat remaining in West Virginia’s Congressional delegation, was not up for reelection in 2014.

While swearing-in ceremonies will not be held until Tuesday, the first day official day for the 114th Congress was Saturday.

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