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Rep. David McKinley talks Build Back Better, infrastructure, opioids and more during Morgantown visit

MORGANTOWN – Rep. David McKinley, R-1st District, paid a visit to town Wednesday and took some time to talk with The Dominion Post about Build Back Better, his vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and some legislation he’s working on.

McKinley voted against Build Back Better in the U.S. House and he’s unsure of what the Senate will do with it after his West Virginia colleague Sen. Joe Manchin put the brakes on it. It may come back in pieces, he said. If it returns with the social spending measures stripped out, House progressives will kill it.

McKinley agrees with the view previously expressed by Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito that the bill’s $1.75 trillion price tag was kept artificially low by not projecting program costs across its full 10-year span. The Congressional Budget Office put the true cost at $4.9 trillion.

One of the measures the bill’s supporters underestimated, he said, was the expanded Child Tax Credit. The bill extended the expanded credit for just a year, but entitlements like this tend not to disappear.

“We’ve had the child tax credit for decades now. Are we going to do away with it [the expanded version] after one more year? No. It’s going to continue and continue and continue.

He agrees with Manchin and Capito that the CTC legislation needs some tweaks: means testing, lower income thresholds, more guidance on how it can be used.

Another flawed BBB measure was the pre-K and daycare provisions. Liberal and progressive sources revealed BBB’s proposal would eliminate more than half the sources of daycare and nearly double the cost for middle class families not eligible for the program.

The daycare provision has some value he said, for veterans and health care providers for example. Putting daycares in VA facilities would allow veterans to have their kids cared for while they’re treated, and give those providers a place for their kids while they’re working.

But the provision included rules that would essentially wipe out religious-based daycares, used by 53% of all families that put their kids in daycare. “I love the idea of having broad expansion of daycare centers, but I don’t want to go back and decimate the programs that have worked.” Good legislation won’t require ideological discrimination.

“Let’s have hearings on this; let’s have some testimony; let’s have a chance for amendments to be offered,” he said. But it was all or nothing and it tanked, for now. “Let’s just see what they come back with.”

McKinley said that many of his House Democrat colleagues accurately predicted that passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – helped doom BBB. Like Manchin and Capito, McKinley voted for it, knowing it will bring about $6 billion to West Virginia across five years.

McKinley has taken heat for that vote – notably from former President Trump and fellow West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney, R-2nd District, who will face McKinley in the May primary for the newly drawn 2nd District.

Trump and Mooney – who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee after receiving a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics for allegedly misspending campaign funds for personal use – have characterized McKinley’s vote as supporting President Biden’s and Nancy Pelosi’s “big socialist spending agenda,” as a Mooney campaign mailer terms it.

McKinley said they’re wrong; it’s a pure infrastructure bill and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed it for that reason. And it will help fix West Virginia roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, conservation dams and more.

“This was the right vote. I have no question,” he said. “Why someone would say otherwise – they could only be doing it for political purposes. … I think a lot of our mission should be give people hope. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving people hope that this is going to be better for us in West Virginia.”

McKinley legislation

McKinley has pursued various measures to combat the nation’s drug crisis. He announced on Wednesday that he has cosponsored the Domain Reform for Unlawful Drug Sellers (DRUGS) Act. The bill will ensure social media platforms and websites are held accountable for failing to prevent the sale of dangerous illegal drugs on their platforms.

During the interview he talked about another bill he’s cosponsored, the HALT Fentanyl Act, directed at stopping the trafficking of synthetic fentanyl into the country. While fentanyl is scheduled, the emergency class-wide scheduling for fentanyl-related substances is set to expire on February 18. That will hamper efforts to prosecute trafficking. The HALT Act would keep it scheduled.

McKinley said he also wants to maintain his efforts to complete federally funded research into carbon capture – an interest he shares with Manchin – some of which is going on here in Morgantown.

Achieving zero-emission fossil-fuel power would put it on par with wind, solar and hydro, he said. “Why would we then continue this pressure to do away with fossil fuels if it’s zero emissions?”

He knows a transition is in process, he said, but it shouldn’t be prematurely legislated – putting people out of work and endangering national security. Instead, we could use our research to leverage such places as China and India, which are expanding the far-less-clean fossil fuel use, into adopting our clean technology.

A question, though, is what to do with captured CO2. One of his pet projects in finding ways to increase the levels of phytoplankton in the world’s oceans. Phytoplankton captures as much CO2 as all the grass and forests on land and would prove a valuable way to consume captured CO2.

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