Paul Ryan attends roundtable event
By DAVE BOUCHER
CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF
While Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., blasted federal energy and health care policies Monday in Charleston alongside Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., his main argument was clear: West Virginia must elect Capito to the U.S. Senate.
“If you want to stop the war on coal, if you want to have an accountable federal government, then you need to have Shelley Moore Capito come to the United States Senate and help us bring normalcy back to Congress. It’s just that simple,” Ryan said in a brief session with the media after the hour-long event.
Capito faces Democratic nominee Natalie Tennant, current Secretary of State for West Virginia, in the race to succeed the retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. Right now Democrats have 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate, but the GOP is confident it can pick up Rockefeller’s seat and several others in the 2014 election to take the majority.
He labeled the Democrat-controlled Senate as a “graveyard” for legislation from the GOP-controlled House.
Capito said it “means a lot” to her that Ryan came to the state, noting the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee’s success in West Virginia with running mate Mitt Romney.
“I will remind you that every single county in this state voted to make Paul Ryan our vice president,” Capito said.
“His policies and his vision for our future ... by him putting his stamp of approval on my campaign, that’s a lot for me.”
In addition to his vice presidential nomination, Ryan is well known for his conservative policies consistently presented in his annual budget proposals as the chairman of the House budget committee.
Nationally, Democrats oppose Ryan’s budget plan; they argue he wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program and cut funding for food stamps and other social programs. The Tennant campaign made these critiques following Capito’s announcement Ryan would come to Charleston.
Alongside U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at an event Monday afternoon in the Jefferson County city of Shepherdstown, Tennant argued Capito and Ryan’s policies favor Wall Street over the average West Virginian.
Echoing national GOP critiques, Ryan characterized Warren as “the left of the left of the Democratic Party.” He also pointed to her outspoken support of the president’s energy policy.
“Elizabeth Warren is part of the war on coal. Elizabeth Warren is a part of the United States Senate that is blocking legislation to preserve coal jobs, that’s blocking legislation to preserve energy jobs in America,” Ryan said.
Ryan and Capito met with about 20 local business and community leaders and residents. The representatives fielded several questions about a variety of federal policies, including those affecting health care, higher education, mortgages and tax reform.
Ryan repeated several of the more prominent ideas from his budget plan: he supports a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare; he believes the president and the administration over-regulate energy and other industries; and he said changes are needed to federal funding for student loan and grant programs.
While the federal health care law continues to divide state politicians, Capito and other officials have heralded a provision that allowed expansion of Medicaid eligibility requirements.
Every state could decide whether to opt into the expansion, extending benefits to those who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level compared to the previous cut-off of 35 percent. West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid allowed more than 134,000 new residents to enroll in the federal health care program.
In a January interview with the National Journal magazine, Capito said she thinks repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act is unrealistic. She also said more West Virginians covered through the expansion is a net positive, but consistent federal funding for the program could be a problem in the future. Ryan, who supports a complete repeal of the expansion, echoed concerns about future funding and argued there are better approaches to creating affordable health care options.
“The answer isn’t to take broken systems and make them bigger, the answer is to do real, patient-centered health care reform that gets affordable insurance to everybody,” Ryan said.
“This is why it’s important to send Shelley to the Senate: there are better ideas that can replace this takeover of our health care system so that low-income people can truly get good health insurance coverage.”
He declined to answer whether West Virginia made the right decision by opting to expand coverage.
Capito and Ryan — along with many West Virginia Democrats — do agree in their dislike of the president’s recent proposal to curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The plan calls for each state to cut emissions rates by different amounts in the hope of curbing total carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. The state Department of Environmental Protection estimates the state needs to cut emissions 15 percent to reach that goal.
Charles Patton, president of Appalachian Power Co., talked to Ryan about his concerns with the plan. Although he didn’t specify a time frame, Patton said it’s “impossible” for his plants to make the necessary cut in emissions to meet the plan’s standards.
Ryan said the country should promote selling coal and natural gas. The shift would decrease the nation’s dependency on oil from the Middle East while increasing exports for U.S. businesses, he said.
“Coal is the secret sauce to giving us abundant, affordable energy,” Ryan said, adding 60 percent of Wisconsin’s energy comes from coal-fired sources.
He declined to answer a question about whether man-made actions are contributing to climate change, instead saying the president’s regulations “are obnoxious.”
A recent version of the West Virginia poll showed Capito leading Tennant by 11 percentage points. The general election is Nov. 4.
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.