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Alex Mooney talks with The Dominion Post during stop in Fairmont

FAIRMONT — Rep. Alex Mooney stopped in town on Wednesday, during a visit to the new part of his expanded 1st District. The Dominion Post spent some time with him to talk about a few current issues and his campaign for U.S Senate.

Mooney on Tuesday announced he’s introduced the Protecting the Second Amendment in Financial Services Act to expressly prohibit financial institutions and credit card companies from using a merchant category code that separately categorizes gun and ammunition transactions.

It’s similar to HB 2004, the Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act, which passed the state Legislature on the 59th day of the session. Mooney’s bill is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.

In his announcement, Mooney said merchant category codes are four-digit codes that enable payment processors and banks to categorize, monitor and collect data on various types of transactions. Last September, the International Organization for Standardization approved an MCC for firearm retailers.

Code supporters, he said, have been open that they intend to use it to track and report lawful firearm transactions to law enforcement under the guise of suspicious activity. While American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover have announced a temporary pause in its implementation, there has been no formal request to withdraw the MCC.

Mooney said Wednesday that the left is attempting to abuse the powers of the U.S. Treasury to gather information that should not be gathered. “We have a right to privacy. Whether it’s investing into coal or buying a gun or something the Biden administration may not approve of; it’s none of their business.”

The bill could pass the House he said, but might have a tougher time in the Senate. Whatever happens to it, “I often find that putting a bill in to highlight that we’re paying attention to the issue helps calm it down.”

Permitting reform

Over in the Senate, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is helping to spearhead permitting reform, an issue also promoted by Sen. Joe Manchin. The House has its own Lower Energy Costs Act, which proposes fast-tracking the approval process for American energy production on federal lands, expediting hardrock mining, repealing the natural gas tax to make it easier to transport and export American natural gas, expediting the permitting process for critical projects and reforming the National Environmental Policy Act to provide for a streamlined permitting process for all federally impacted projects.

Mooney said he supports the bill. Government doesn’t know better than the companies how to produce oil and gas, he said, and Biden assertions about adequate permitting are off the mark.

Assertions that no more pipelines should be built, that we need to go all renewable, “that’s what we’re fighting here,” he said. Renewables can’t carry the baseload.

“Government shouldn’t pick the winners and losers in the energy business,” he said, “If someone wants to put up a solar panel and they want to pay for it, fine. Same with windmills and geothermal and other ways to be environmentally friendly.” But gas and coal extraction are also more friendly than they used to be.

“It’s not either/or, in my view,” he said. “You can do both in an economically and environmentally friendly way.”

Debt ceiling

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said Congress has until about June 1 to raise the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on national debts. Capito and Manchin have both publicly and repeatedly urged Biden to start negotiations on the House Limit, Save, Grow Act that — according to news reports — would increase the debt limit by $1.5 trillion through March 2024, free up $4.5 trillion in savings by reversing discretionary spending for non-defense programs to fiscal year 2022 levels, and limit program growth to 1% — amounting to a 9% overall cut.

Biden has been stalling for close to three months, but USA Today reported he’s set to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on May 9.

The bill targets Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, news reports say, rescinds funding to add 80,000 IRS agents, reclaims unspent COVID-19 funding, and enacts work requirements (80 hours per month) for federal aid programs for childless adults up to age 56, including Medicaid and SNAP, but does not include any changes to Social Security and Medicare. Current work requirements apply to people up to age 50.

But Biden wants future spending decisions to be negotiated separately, news reports say, and the debt limit be increased without conditions.

Mooney said Wednesday, “We have to cut spending because we’re bankrupting America — $32 trillion in debt is completely irresponsible, and it keeps happening. … We need to solve the problem, but before you can solve the problem you’ve got to stop making it worse.”

The House GOP majority feels it reflects the will of the people who want to see spending under control, he said. “I was proud of my vote on that bill.” We can pay debts and cut spending in a responsible way or just keep doing the same thing. Congress should put a bill on Biden’s desk and see if he signs or vetoes it, and maybe that will start a conversation.

“We just have to live within our means; there’s no choice there,” he said, “We can debate what should be cut. But we need to start and this is a good start.”

Senate campaign

Mooney and Gov. Jim Justice have not spoken well of each other in their respective Senate campaigns. Mooney has called Justice a liberal and a liar and Justice has said more than once that he never sees Mooney in the state.

In that light, we asked Mooney about President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Mooney said he’s experienced personal attacks in his campaigns (people have used the word carpetbagger because he moved to the Eastern Panhandle from Maryland) but he’s a West Virginian by choice. “Every opponent has attacked me for that; I think it’s petty and silly.”

West Virginians deserve a robust debate on the issues, he said. “My take is West Virginians deserve a conservative U.S. senator. I’m the only one who is running who has a conservative record, the only one. I think I need to make that case.”

His mother, he said, was born and raised in Cuba and lived there during the Communist takeover. His dad was a U.S. Army captain who fought in Vietnam. “I was raised by parents who really believed in this country, in fighting for our freedoms. That’s why I do what I do.”

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp