Behind the Headlines, Things Got Done in Washington
Based on the cynical headlines in national newspapers, networks and cable news, most Americans probably think nothing productive was accomplished in Washington last year.
Behind all of the blaring national headlines, there were notable bipartisan accomplishments that should not be ignored. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her majority spent their time on impeachment, investigations, and scoring political points, our office focused on keeping our head down and getting results. Working quietly behind the scenes and across the aisle, we were able to achieve some success for the people of West Virginia.
Our most notable accomplishment is something that we have worked on for more than seven years. We finally convinced Congress to secure the pensions and health care benefits of over 100,000 coal miners and their families, providing them the peace of mind they deserve.
Regarding lowering the price of prescription drugs, our legislation, the CREATES Act, was signed into law. CREATES will help bring generic alternatives to the market faster, saving Americans billions of dollars.
Last year, we built on our previous work on opioids, ensuring that funding goes to the hardest-hit states. This helped steer hundreds of millions of additional dollars to West Virginia; and included funds for alternatives to opioids in emergency room settings, which come as a direct result of our legislation, the ALTO Act.
We spearheaded the fight for additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), providing them with more than $40 billion to support their ground-breaking research into cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. We also included language to establish specific funding to conduct research into pancreatic cancer.
Another project we have fought for over the years is continued funding for research and development in fossil fuels at the National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) in Morgantown. Not only is this funding at its highest level in a decade, helping to drive energy innovation and support jobs in West Virginia; but our amendment also ensures NETL remains in Morgantown.
We also promoted efforts to grow West Virginia’s economy, such as the development of an Appalachian Storage Hub for natural gas liquids and the continued construction of Corridor H.
We took steps to protect American manufacturers, such as Homer Laughlin China Company, by guaranteeing that the military will buy American-made flatware and dinnerware instead of foreign-made products.
In 2019, I became Chairman of that National Heritage Areas Caucus, and worked to protect the Wheeling National Heritage Area and to create the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area. The Federal Communications Commission finally moved forward with our legislation to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline, and we also worked with the Trump Administration to ensure that Chinese purchases of American hardwood would be part of the new trade deal.
But not everything occurs in Washington. Our district representatives and caseworkers are incredible and do great work to help constituents each day. Since 2011, they have closed almost 8,000 cases, and in 2019 alone they worked on more than 900 constituent concerns, helping West Virginians solve problems with their Social Security, Veterans Affairs benefits and issues with any other government agency. They have assisted our veterans in collecting more than $4 million dollars worth of benefits. The district staff embodies our desire to put West Virginians first.
Everything that has been accomplished this year has been done as a team. Our staff works long hours and have dedicated themselves to helping our state. Without them, none of this is possible. Mary and I are forever grateful for all they have done and all they will continue to do.
As we move forward, we will work to build on our successes on opioids, drug pricing, and increasing fossil energy research. We will also look for new opportunities in areas like aiding food banks, and expanding the opportunities created by President Trump’s policies throughout West Virginia.
All of our Washington office’s accomplishments are a testament to a commitment to working in a bipartisan fashion. This work has led to me being named the 11th most bipartisan member of the 115th Congress by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy’s Bipartisan Index.
So, despite the overwhelming number of negative headlines and myriad distractions in 2019, our office is proudly making things happen and will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure the needs of our state are met.
Our goal has never been to make headlines or to take credit for everything Congress has accomplished. Instead, our office has focused on getting things done for West Virginia.
McKinley represents the First District of West Virginia, which includes the Northern Panhandle, in the U.S. House of Representatives.