Rahall ready to serve 3rd congressional district again
November 1, 2012 ·
This election, incumbent candidate Nick Joe Rahall is introducing himself to the voters in Mason County thanks to a new congressional redistricting map.
A steady flow of traffic files into the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center for the Beckley Rotary Club meeting.
The room swells with conversation as lunch is served to rotary members and visitors. The self-described ‘movers and shakers’ are visiting before the meeting starts; among them, Congressman Nick Joe Rahall.
They begin the meeting with a song and the introduction of the featured speaker.
“He is not someone inside the beltway of Washingtonian who has forgotten the people who he represents," a rotary member says from the podium. "So it is with great pride that members of Rotarian welcome one of our own to speak to us today, Nick Joe Rahall,”
Rahall says he has been a member of the rotary club for about 40 years. During this speech and other ceremonies Rahall defended the now outlawed ‘earmark’ provision process, as long as they are open and transparent.
“I believe it’s the constitutional duty of members of congress to direct where these monies are spent," Rahall said, "versus the president of the United States or any federal unelected bureaucracy.”
Rahall was instrumental in making the BIG Project, short for Beckley Intermodal gateway, a reality by earmarking millions of dollars to the project.
The people of West Virginia’s third congressional district have picked Rahall to represent them for 36-years.
"I think we have made tremendous progress over the 36 years that I have been honored and humbled to represent Southern West Virginia," Rahall said. "Have we gotten everything we want? Are we there? Is it the perfect economic scenario at this time? Heaven’s no. We obviously have a lot more to do."
"It’s a continual battle to continue to put people to work and to ensure the future of our coal industry which has been is and always will be number one.”
Rahall’s opponent Rick Snuffer complains that the incumbent hasn’t done enough to improve roads and infrastructure in the third congressional district.
Rahall points to a few projects in which he says the money has made a difference such as the Reconnecting McDowell Project, a public/private partnership lead by the American Federation of Teachers that just began last fall.
So far, the project helped to bring broadband access to every resident in McDowell. Though connection is still a work in progress.
He also pointed to the King Coal Highway. It’s expected to open the region up to faster, safer transportation; but is not yet complete.
“We have to look at Mingo County," Rahall said, "where they’ve use public/private partnership to build parts of the King Coal Highway that has been very effective."
"The coal companies have gone in mined the coal and got the benefits there upon and left in place the road bed for the future of the King Coal Highway."
It will ultimately cover about 90 miles of what’s considered coal country, southern West Virginia, Rahall’s district.
It’s no secret that the coal industry adamantly accuses president Obama’s administration of declaring a ‘war on coal.’ Rahall says his Republican challenger falsely accuses him of defending the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1980, Rahall worked on a bill that would have left it up to the EPA to create standards on coal ash impoundments. Shortly after the Tennessee Ash spill, in December 2008, Rahall proposed a bill that would require guidelines for ash impoundments similar to existing federal rules on strip mines.
Rahall has since changed his tune about coal ash. This year, the congressman co-sponsored a bill ‘meant to reign in the EPA’ by prohibiting coal ash to be designated a hazardous waste. The title would basically eliminate recycling ash for other uses.
Rahall says he tried to work with the EPA for year.
“I am now of the opinion that there is a group in EPA that’s not only against surface mining or moutaintop removal, which I can understand the controversial nature of that," Rahall said. "But they’re against all fossil fuels and once they do in coal natural gas doing as good as it is now they’ll be after natural gas soon you just watch and see.”
During this administration Rahall says he supported Obama 94 percent of the time but only during the president’s first year in office.
“I have supported the president when he is right for West Virginia," Rahall said. "I have opposed him when I felt he was wrong for West Virginia and that’s the case with all the previous six presidents under whom, not under whom, with whom, not under whom at all, with whom I have worked.”
Rahall says he has disagreed with the president on of number issues.
“Number one is the EPA," Rahall began his list of topics he disagrees with the president. "Number two is cap and trade. Number three is gay marriage. Number four is abortion. Number five are trade deals that I feel outsource our jobs overseas whether is NAFTA CAFTA or anything thereafta."
"I’ve also, number six, opposed the administration on the Eric Holder contempt citation. So there’s six issues just I think I’m thinking off the top of my head where I have opposed this president and where I felt has been wrong for West Virginia and therefore I have opposed him."
Rahall does, however, support the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obama Care.
He admits it is not a perfect law and his opponent criticizes the Act because Rick Snuffer says it cut medicare funding.
“It’s interesting to note that that’s the same figure, almost to the penny, that Paul Ryan proposes to take out of Medicare,” Rahall said. “But here’s the big difference; in the president’s plan, the Affordable Care Act, that 716 billion comes from eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, tax payer subsidies to private insurance companies, and other cuts in the Medicare program.”
“It eliminates a lot of the test simplicity paperwork requirements. It improves the technologies in our hospitals and other medical facilities that allows a reduction in Medicare cost. And the affordable care act puts all of those reductions back into the Medicare trust fund thus extending the solvency of the trust fund for an additional 8 years.”
But Rahall isn’t saying if he will vote for President Barack Obama.
“It’s not important who I will vote for," Rahall said. "The people of West Virginia will make up their minds on that issue. They are intelligent and will be able to discern the facts and decide for themselves. They don’t need a politician telling them how to vote."