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Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., attends a round table meeting of business leaders Wednesday at Stockmeier Urethane to highlight German investment in West Virginia in Clarksburg.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., doesn’t think he should have to apologize for passing a bill that will pump billions of dollars into West Virginia to improve roads, bridges, water systems, broadband internet and other things. McKinley was one of 13 House Republicans who helped get President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill across the finish line in a vote Friday.

McKinley’s right. Why should he be sorry for helping his state?

To be clear, this is not the Build Back Better, or “human infrastructure,” bill still being batted about in the Senate, which is an entirely separate issue. In fact, the Senate passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill nearly three months ago by a wide, bipartisan margin, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., both voting yes. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said his goal was to completely oppose the Biden administration on everything, voted in favor of the bill.

The only members of the West Virginia congressional delegation to vote against the bill were Republican Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller. Mooney hypocritically decried the spending in the bill, and Miller issued the cut-and-paste response that it’s “a path to socialism.”

McKinley sees the real picture. West Virginia’s infrastructure is in shambles. His background is in civil engineering, so he’s in a unique position to understand just how bleak the situation is when the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the state a “D” for infrastructure, as it did in a 2020 report.

West Virginia’s broadband problem was exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state has other infrastructure issues that almost defy belief. There are thousands of West Virginians without reliable, clean water service in their homes. This problem is particularly bad in areas hit hard by coal’s decline. In some of the state’s southern counties, you can see people hauling large containers to a spring or water runoff site alongside a road, because it’s cleaner than what comes out of their faucets, if anything comes out at all.

Anyone who’s driven a stretch of road in any part of the state knows how dire that situation is. And warnings have been sounded time and again for years by different groups on the crumbling condition of West Virginia bridges.

All of these problems have a solution in common: a lot of money that doesn’t exist — or, at least, it didn’t. Now, West Virginia has a once-in-a-generation chance to fix these fundamental issues that have gone unaddressed for far too long. Not only will the funding improve infrastructure across the state, it will provide good-paying jobs to do the work.

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This isn’t a path to socialism. It’s an opportunity for states like West Virginia to get back up off the mat, and significantly improve quality of life.

In an interview with Gazette-Mail editors Monday, McKinley said he was lobbied hard by his party to vote against the bill.

“They kept saying, ‘We can’t give Biden a win,’” McKinley claimed. “That’s not what it’s about. This was good for West Virginia.”

He also pointed to previous efforts at massive infrastructure packages in the Obama and Trump administrations that never came together.

“I’ve been waiting for 11 years to vote on infrastructure,” he said. “If we didn’t do it now, when were we going to do it? Were we going to pass it after a Republican president gets elected in 2024 and takes office in 2025? That’s four years from now.”

McKinley, Manchin and Capito did the right thing, while Mooney and Miller played politics. It’s no small irony that their petty calculations landed them on the same side as colleagues they often ridicule, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. (Ocasio-Cortez and a handful of other Democrats voted against the bill in protest, because they were trying to leverage the Senate into passing the Build Back Better Act first).

McKinley’s rationality in this hyper-partisan age might cost him in the short-term, but supporting good policy that helps the constituents back home is still the fundamental basis of what makes an effective member of Congress. And even if it does cost him politically, McKinley can say he did what he thought was right when the opportunity of a lifetime for his state came along.

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