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Manchin talks Reta Mays’ sentencing, infrastructure, and more with WV press

MORGANTOWN — Sen. Joe Manchin met with members of the West Virginia press Tuesday to discuss infrastructure legislation, the sentencing of Reta Mays for the murder of eight veterans at the Clarksburg VA hospital, and other topics.

Mays received seven life sentences, plus 20 years.

“Justice has been served,” he said. But several other suspicious deaths at the hospital are still under investigation. “I’m praying the good Lord there is not more or there is another go at this.”

He criticized hospital leadership for allowing this to happen. “I just think there is a total lack of accountability at the Clarksburg VA.” That includes lack of training and failure to perform background checks, he said.

Manchin said he will be meeting with VA Secretary Denis McDonough to review the Clarksburg situation and to urge him to review all VA hospitals.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. David McKinley also issued statements on the sentencing.

Capito said, “While today’s sentencing may not heal the hurt and pain felt by the victims’ families or bring back the innocent lives lost, it is an appropriate and important step toward justice … Going forward, it is important that we make sure our veterans receive the best care possible, feel safe while receiving care at our West Virginia VA medical facilities, and tragedies like this never, ever happen again. I am committed to continuing to work to create solutions that will ensure our VAs in West Virginia and across the country are following the right protocols that protect patients and ensure they are delivered the best possible care.”

McKinley said, “The situation at the Clarksburg VA was sickening and never should have happened. We cannot begin to understand the grief and anger of the families whose loved ones were murdered. Today the families of these veterans were finally able to receive justice from the sentencing of Reta Mays. Going forward we must continue to work with VA leaders and review the Office of Inspector General report to improve conditions and transparency at VA hospitals to ensure what happened here never happens again.”

Infrastructure and more

Asked by The Dominion Post about progress on an infrastructure bill, Manchin said he had a great meeting with President Biden Monday on a variety of topics.

Manchin said the $500 billion GOP counteroffer to Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan — Capito is running point on that counteroffer — provides a good starting point. “I think we can find a bipartisan pathway forward.”

Like Capito, Manchin said again he wants to take care of traditional infrastructure first: roads, bridges, broadband, water, sewer. What he termed the “human infrastructure” side can come in subsequent bills.

The full impacts of the COVID relief spending hasn’t been realized yet, so with Biden’s proposals, “The pay-fors are very concerning to me.”

He emphasized that Biden’s proposal spans eight years, not just one, and Manchin wants to see what could get done in eight years in what passes.

Manchin said he discussed with Biden the bureaucratic boondoggle of permitting. Eisenhower’s national interstate project was completed in 13 years. Under current permitting regulations, it might take 13 years to get this plan rolling. Biden understood that, Manchin said.

Manchin again mentioned the importance of the King Coal, Coalfield Expressway and Corridor H projects, and upgrading W.Va. 2 up the Panhandle. Asked about using his leverage to fully fund those, he said he has to be careful. Horse-trading can backfire and lead to obligation to support things he opposes. “They’ll give me that little 7% chunk and I’ll have to swallow the whole 93%.”

The Dominion Post also asked Manchin if he’s discussed the fate of the Morgantown Mylan plant with Biden and his West Virginia colleagues.

He had to be admittedly vague and say “Yes, yes and heavy yes.” He’s had discussions he can’t disclose at this point but he hopes to have some direction for the plant well before it’s set to close July 31.

“I still think there’s great value in the Morgantown plant, great value for our country,” he said.

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