In maiden speech, Manchin steers towards center

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) affirmed his independence from President Obama and the Democratic Party on Thursday, criticizing the federal government for its excesses in his maiden speech on the Senate floor. 

"America's manufacturing sector is dominated by the cruel irony of rules and regulation that make it easier to create jobs abroad than in the United States," Manchin said. "Madam President, West Virginians are not asking for a handout. We're asking for a work permit."

Manchin singled out the Environmental Protection Agency for criticism in his speech. The agency is set to impose limits on greenhouse gases that could have a large impact on coal producers in West Virginia.

"I believe it is fundamentally wrong for any bureaucratic agency, including the EPA, to regulate what has not been legislated," he said.

Manchin also rapped Congress for letting the federal deficit get out of hand.

“This is what I learned growing up in West Virginia: When things are tough, we don’t back down," he said. "When we are having a trouble paying out bills, we don’t think of spending more money.”

Manchin’s speech, which he touted as a look at his “common-sense agenda,” was heavy with references to West Virginia's role as the nation’s primary coal producer.

"I am very proud of the critical role West Virginians play in providing energy to our nation," said Manchin. "I imagine the light in this very chamber would be a little bit dimmer if not for West Virginia and its coal."

Immediately following the speech, which started at 3 p.m. and lasted for about 20 minutes, party leaders rose to lavish Manchin with accolades.

"You have just heard a classic Joe Manchin speech," said Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the senior senator from West Virginia. "It’s full of optimism, strength, and common purpose."

"I too want to join in accolades for the senator for West Virginia," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) "He is just a wonderful guy and he is doing a wonderful job here already."