Manchin visits Morgantown; still backs ObamaCare, remains cautious on Kavanaugh

MORGANTOWN — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, during his swing through Morgantown Friday, criticized West Virginia’s role in a  20-state lawsuit seeking to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional.

He remains undecided on Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, saying he’ll take a stance after they meet next week.

Manchin capped his visit with some keynote comments during a “Community Celebration of Affordable Housing and Homeownership” held at Oliverio’s in the Wharf District.

At the event, put on by the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Home Loan Bank, homeowners who received affordable housing loans from local  partner banks told how the loans improved their lives.

Manchin and FHLB officials presented ceremonial federal housing grant checks — from FHLB and local partners Clear Mountain Bank and MVB — to three local agencies: Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority, $451,112; the Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living, $650,000; and Mon County Habitat for Humanity, $425,000.

Jan Derry, executive director of the Independent Living Center, said they serve an aging population living on fixed incomes in older homes. “The lack of accessible, affordable housing has become one of the biggest barriers for living the American Dream for people with disabilities and older adults.”

She told of one client forced to bathe outside in his driveway with a hose once a week because he couldn’t get to his tub.

The state Legislature appropriated $500,000 for its statewide Community Living Services Program, she said, but that doesn’t go far when remodeling a single bathroom can cost   $14,000 – $25,000.

With the FHLB grants, “We are able to allow people to age in place and remain in their homes,” Derry said.

Homeowners who received loans from the three agencies told their stories. Teresa, widowed for 14 years now, got a home repair loan from the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority. It paid for 19 windows and vinyl siding.

“I don’t know what I would have done without their help. It has changed our lives. It has taken a burden off my shoulders that I had to carry by myself,” she said.

Manchin listed five promises every child should receive: Unconditional love, a safe place, a healthy start, a chance to learn a livable skill, and a chance to grow to be a loving, caring adult who can give something back. These programs play a role in that, he said.

At Senior Mons, he talked politics, including the deep partisan divide across the country and in D.C.

“We’ve got to bring people together,” he said. “This country’s always been based on how we can compromise and come together. Right now we’re just tearing each other apart.”

Manchin blasted the coalition of 20 states seeking  to have ObamaCare declared unconstitutional. West Virginia is one of those 20, under Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is Manchin’s Republican opponent for the Senate races.

“The biggest concern I have right now is the attack on health care,” he said. One result of a victory in that suit would be the end of the ACA’s required coverage of pre-existing conditions, he said. That would affect 800,000 West Virginians, he said: 400,000 won’t be able to get insurance, the rest will see higher rates.

Manchin said he introduced a Senate resolution that would authorize Senate legal counsel to intervene in the case.

Manchin said he’ll meet with Kavanaugh on Monday. His staff has been reviewing Kavanaugh’s rulings to prepare for Monday’s questioning.

People want him to declare his opinion now, he said, but that’s not how the process works. He’ll question Kavanaugh and listen to Kavanaugh’s Judiciary Committee testimony expected in August or September in order to make an informed choice.

“This is the proper decorum that should be used,” he said.

Chester Ayersman, a retired city employee, complained about soaring prescription prices. Manchin said much of that is due to middle men and private sector companies that negotiate process. “We can’t get them to change because the pharmaceutical companies have so much control in Washington. We can’t get some of our colleagues to vote.”

Frank McGreevy, who took a break from his pool game and was still holding his  cue, told Manchin: “You’ve got to make sure you take care of business in Washington and vote the way Joe Manchin the West Virginian would vote, and not how the machine politics of the Democratic Party want you to vote.”

Manchin replied, “I vote West Virginia. You’re my boss. … I vote more centrist than anybody in Washington.”

Manchin also made Friday stops at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center to talk about a biomed summer camp and the WVU Hospitals’ Chestnut Ridge Center to discuss its opioid addiction treatment program.

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