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Fact-check: Did Joe Manchin vote to fund the border wall?

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Immigration policy has been one of the most contentious issues in Congress in recent years. And a big part of that debate has revolved around President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

Generally, Democrats have been skeptical that a wall is needed or would work as an immigration-control measure. But Democratic senators who are up for election this year in Republican-leaning states have had to walk a political tightrope, balancing their party loyalty with their constituents’ support for the president.

In an ad in his reelection campaign, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said, “I wanted Mexico to pay for the wall, but they’re not. So we need to do it ourselves.”

Despite attacks by Republicans accusing him of being soft on illegal immigration, Manchin said in the ad, “I voted to fund President Trump’s wall. Check the vote.”

So we did.

The clearest example — and the one Manchin visually highlighted in his ad — was a bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Among other things, it would have funded a border wall.

Specifically, the legislation said that “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary (including the removal of obstacles to detection of illegal entrants) to construct, install, deploy, operate, and permanently maintain physical barriers, tactical infrastructure and technology in the vicinity of the United States border to achieve situational awareness and operational control of the border and deter, impede, and detect illegal activity in high traffic areas.”

The measure also would have struck the language in an existing bill that said “fencing and road Improvements” and instead inserted “physical barriers” — a stronger phrase, closer to the vision of a “wall.”

“Not later than September 30, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in carrying out this section, shall deploy along the United States border the most practical and effective physical barriers and tactical infrastructure available for achieving situational awareness and operational control of the border,” the legislation said.

The legislation included other elements of Trump’s immigration agenda, including tighter curbs on legal immigration, that made it unpalatable to most Democrats.

Trump backed this measure, and three Democrats ended up voting for it when it came up on Feb. 15, 2018, along with 36 Republicans. That was well short of a majority and much less the 60 votes required to advance the measure to a final vote.

But Manchin was one of those three Democrats to vote for it.

In two other instances, Manchin voted for measures that would have increased border security infrastructure such as fencing, but not precisely the wall as envisioned by Trump.

One was a bipartisan measure, informally called the Common Sense Plan, that would have implemented a path to citizenship for “dreamers” who were brought illegally to the United States as minors, along with funding for border security. Despite the border-security language, Trump opposed it.

The measure would have provided $25 billion for “the construction of physical barriers, border security technologies, and tactical infrastructure.” It said that within six months after passage, the executive branch would have to submit to Congress “a risk-based plan for improving security along the borders of the United States, including the use of personnel, fencing, other forms of tactical infrastructure, and technology.”

It won the backing of eight Republicans and 46 Democrats and Democratic-caucusing independents. Manchin voted to advance the measure to a final vote. However, it fell short of the 60 votes required for final passage.

third measure — and the only one to pass — was a $1.3 trillion annual federal government spending bill, of which funding for replacement border fencing was a small part.

Trump has sometimes touted this bill as making progress on building his border wall, but we have found these claims inaccurate, because the law was actually explicit about providing funding for items outside the scope of the Trump wall. The bill included $1.6 billion for some projects at the border, but none of that can be used toward the border wall promised during the presidential campaign.

The final vote for this bill was 65-32 in favor. All told, 39 Democrats voted for it, including Manchin.

It can be tricky to pin down what pieces of legislation supported Trump’s specific vision for the wall, and which supported more generic elements of border security.

However, the bill Manchin highlighted in his ad — the Grassley legislation — received Trump’s support, so Manchin’s vote for it was effectively a vote for Trump’s border-security vision, however it might play out on the ground. This supports Manchin’s notion that he “voted to fund President Trump’s wall.”

Manchin’s overall message is a shift from Trump’s first year in office.

Morrisey’s office forwarded us a link to an article that listed a number of instances in which Manchin spoke out against, or expressed skepticism about, the idea of a border wall. For instance, the article noted that in an interview on “The Young Turks” on July 11, 2017, Manchin said, “I’m not for building a wall. I’m not for building a wall at all.” He also told Politico that month that he had “not been supportive of funding for a wall.”

Our ruling

Manchin said, “I voted to fund President Trump’s wall.”

Manchin has offered various opinions about the merits of a border wall over time. However, when it came to votes, we found a clear instance in which Manchin supported a Trump-backed, hard-line immigration bill with border wall provisions that was too conservative even for a sizable portion of the Republican caucus.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

Fact Check

Fact-check: Does West Virginia have the Nation’s Fourth-worst Poverty Rate?

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This March 15, 2018 photo shows Moundsville, W.Va., from a nearby farm. Photo: Paul Vernon/AP Photo

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano expressed concern about the state of the West Virginia economy.

“Our poverty rate, which has not declined since the Great Recession, was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Romano wrote.

Are Romano’s statistics about West Virginia poverty accurate? We took a closer look.

We turned to official U.S. Census Bureau data for poverty by state and looked at 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. While there are two main Census Bureau sources for poverty statistics — the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey — experts we consulted with agreed that the American Community Survey data was better for a statewide statistic because it has a much larger sample size.

Romano was correct that West Virginia had the fourth-highest poverty rate of any state in 2017, at 19.1 percent.

Here are the five states with the highest poverty rates that year:

1. Mississippi: 19.8 percent

2. Louisiana: 19.7 percent

3. New Mexico: 19.7 percent

4. West Virginia: 19.1 percent

5. Kentucky: 17.2 percentOur ruling

Romano said the poverty rate in West Virginia “was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country.”

He’s right on both counts, so we rate his statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Have Median Incomes in West Virginia Not Risen in a Decade?

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Minden, West Virginia. Photo: Brittany Patterson/ WVPB

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano offered a litany of troubling statistics about West Virginia’s economy and urged the creation of “a real economic comeback” in West Virginia.

One of Romano’s statistics was that, “adjusting for inflation, West Virginia’s median household income has not grown in a decade.”

We fact-checked two other statements from his op-ed that turned out to be True.

Is the latest one on stagnant income correct? We turned to official federal data from the Census Bureau to find out.

That data shows that in 2007, the inflation-adjusted median household income in West Virginia was $49,885 — the culmination of a decade and a half of consistent gains above the rate of inflation.

But one decade later, the 2007 figure remains the state’s highest median income level since the statistic was first recorded in 1984. Over that decade, the median income fell by 9 percent when factoring in inflation. (Data for 2018 is not available yet.)

The nation as a whole has seen some income stagnation since 1999, but nothing as severe as West Virginia experienced. Nationally, median incomes have risen every year since 2014 and hit an all-time high in 2017.

Comparing the specific years Romano used — 2007 to 2017 — the national figure rose by 3 percent.

Our ruling

Romano wrote that “adjusting for inflation, West Virginia’s median household income has not grown in a decade.” West Virginia’s inflation-adjusted median income has dropped 9 percent in the last decade, even as the national figure has risen by 3 percent. We rate his statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Does West Virginia Spend Half its Budget on K-12 Education?

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Tyler Consolidated High School social studies teacher Susan Gilbert. Photo: Ashton Marra/100 Days in Appalachia

Is almost half of West Virginia’s state budget devoted to K-12 education? That’s what West Virginia state Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, a Democrat, said.

“Fifty percent of our (West Virginia) budget was for lower education,” Prezioso said during a panel discussion at West Virginia University on Nov. 29, 2018.

We looked at the most recent budget report released by the state to determine whether Prezioso was accurate.

According to the most recent West Virginia executive budget document, the state spent $1.919 billion on “education” in fiscal year 2017, the most recent year for which actual expenditures are currently available. (This category does not include university spending. Expenditures for “higher education” totaled $392.9 million.)

Total expenditures for fiscal year 2017 were about $4.2 billion. That means K-12 education accounted for about 46 percent of the budget.

As for the recommendations for fiscal year 2019, education spending would account for 44.26 percent of overall spending.

After the panel, PolitiFact West Virginia asked Prezioso to clarify what he had meant, and he said that the 50 percent figure was an approximation.

Our ruling  

At the panel, Prezioso said that “50 percent of our (West Virginia) budget was for lower education.”

We found that it was 46 percent for 2017 and a recommended 44 percent for 2019. Prezioso was off by a few percentage points, but he was in the ballpark, so we rate his statement Mostly True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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