Yesterday in a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) once again reiterated that it was “time to rebuild America, not Afghanistan.”
The senator blasted a new project to provide reliable electricity to Afghanistan while many West Virginians were still without power or water nearly two weeks after storms wrecked the area beginning June 29.
“I rise this morning to address a situation that is very hard for me to believe and makes no sense to the people of my great state of West Virginia,” Manchin said. “I know there are other needs around the world, but seeing firsthand how vulnerable our system is, I was so surprised and disappointed to hear yesterday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a massive investment in power infrastructure in another country, by awarding a $94 million dollar contract to provide reliable power in Afghanistan.”
The corps announced earlier this week that it had awarded $93.6 million to improve electrical transmission from the Kajaki Dam power station throughout the Helmand Province, to include burying transmission lines and providing back-up generators.
In the 1970s, U.S. taxpayers funded the Kajaki Dam Power House, but the facility was not maintained.
“So I thought: ‘How could I explain this back?’” Manchin said. “We’re providing reliable power to the Afghans when nearly 200,000 West Virginians spent a week without electricity, lost all their food, and suffered in nearly 100 degree heat? When our country is losing tens and hundreds of billions of dollars because of power outages?”
Last year, after taking his second trip to Afghanistan, Manchin said that he believed it was “time to stop spending hundreds of billions rebuilding that country and instead use that money to rebuild America.”
“I cannot count the number of times I have come to the floor of this Senate chamber to say it’s time to rebuild America, not Afghanistan,” Manchin said during his speech. “But in all my time in the Senate, I have not seen a starker example of misplaced priorities.
“It’s wrong to invest in reliable power for the Afghan people when tens of thousands of West Virginians have been without power for nearly two weeks because our infrastructure is so vulnerable.”
Manchin encouraged his colleagues to join him in coming together in embracing his idea.
“This facility wasn’t maintained in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s or in the 2000s – what makes us think that it will be maintained now?” Manchin asked his fellow senators. “I can’t say it enough: if you build a bridge in West Virginia, we won’t blow it up. If you build a school, we won’t burn it down. In fact, we will be very appreciative. And if you help us invest in a more reliable electric system, we will use that power to make this country stronger, to power this nation’s economy, and to provide good-paying jobs.
Manchin said he would feel the same way regarding any other state in America.
“This might have been a ‘once in a lifetime’ storm, one where millions of people lost power no matter how well we prepared, but the fact that tens of thousands of West Virginians are still without power and water is a sign that we must do better as a country,” Manchin said. “This could happen to any state — whether it’s a storm, an earthquake, tornadoes, fires, floods or a hurricane — and I would hope that my colleagues in the Senate share my feelings. We can’t help others if we don’t keep our country strong, and we’re beginning to neglect our very real needs here at home.”