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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: How Low Does West Virginia Rank in Teacher Pay?

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Teachers hold a rally outside the Senate Chambers in the West Virginia Capitol Monday, March. 5, 2018 in Charleston, W.V. Hundreds of teachers from 55 counties are on strike for pay raises and better health benefits. Photo: Tyler Evert/AP Photo

Less than a year after West Virginia experienced a major teachers’ strike, Republican state Del. Paul Espinosa touted GOP efforts to raise teacher salaries — and attacked Democrats for causing the problem of low pay in the first place.

On Oct. 9, Espinosa, who chairs the House Committee on Education, tweeted, “From 1990 to 2015 under democrat control, W. Va. teacher pay rank plummeted from 30th in the nation to 48th. Our GOP led legislature is committed to reversing that decline through passage of the largest aggregate pay raises in our state’s history. #ResultsNotResistance #wvgop18”

Espinosa said he was citing numbers originally provided by the governor’s office, but we decided to take a look at the original data.

Where West Virginia ranks nationally

The numbers vary a bit from measurement to measurement, but there’s no question that West Virginia currently ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in teacher pay.

A CNN article published around the time of the teacher strike, on March 5, 2018, pegged the state at 48th in the nation — consistent with Espinosa’s second figure. The article cited data collected by National Education Association, a prominent teachers union.

We were able to find a more recent figure from the NEA, covering 2017, and by then, West Virginia’s ranking had grown even worse. It fell for the second year in a row, to 49th.

Meanwhile, we located data from earlier NEA surveys and found that West Virginia hasn’t ranked higher than 44th since 2004.

 

However, we weren’t able to find NEA data online prior to 2003, so we turned instead to data collected by the federal Education Department. This data set goes back to the late 1960s.

Here’s a chart comparing West Virginia and national teacher salaries at various intervals since the 1969-70 school year. It shows that West Virginia pay has trailed national pay by a fairly consistent margin since at least 2000. It also shows that teacher pay hasn’t kept up with inflation during the last decade.

 

As for West Virginia’s ranking nationally, it fell precipitously between about 1970 and 1990, then spiked upward before starting to decline again around 2000.

 

This tracks with contemporary news coverage of the 1990 West Virginia teachers’ strike, which came when teacher pay was almost at the bottom of the rankings, according to Education Week.

In the 1989-90 school year, the period of the previous strike, West Virginia ranked 48th. To find the state rating roughly 30th in the nation, you have to go back all the way to the late 1960s.

So Espinosa has a point that West Virginia teacher pay had sunk to a couple places from the bottom by 2015 — but he’s exaggerated the heights from which it fell.

Are the Democrats to blame?

This is more of a mixed picture than Espinosa lets on.

First off, the time period is cherry-picked. The legislature had been controlled by the Democrats for decades until the GOP won control in the 2014 elections. By ending his time frame at 2015, Espinosa  overlooks the period when the GOP controlled the Legislature — a period in which the state’s teacher pay ranking has fallen, according to the annual NEA data.

In addition, the 1990-to-2015 time frame cuts out the governorship of Republican Arch Moore (who served three non-consecutive terms, from 1969 to 1977 and from 1985 to 1989). It also cuts out the current governorship of Jim Justice, who was elected as a Democrat but later switched to the GOP. Currently, Republicans control the governorship as well as both chambers of the legislature.

As it happens, the greatest increase in the teacher pay rankings during the period Espinosa cited came between about 1990 and 2000. During most of that period, the state had a Democratic governor, Gaston Caperton. A couple years of that time span were under a Republican governor, Cecil Underwood.

Ultimately, then, the partisan blame does not accrue exclusively to the Democrats.

Our ruling

Espinosa said, “From 1990 to 2015 under (Democratic) control, W. Va. teacher pay rank plummeted from 30th in the nation to 48th.”

There’s no question that West Virginia teacher pay currently ranks near the bottom of the 50 states, but he exaggerated how far those rankings had fallen since 1990. In addition, the biggest rise in pay during that period came during the tenure of a Democratic governor, which undercuts the argument that the Democrats are entirely to blame.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Was West Virginia the Eighth Fastest Growing State Economy Last Year?

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Along U.S. Route 19 in southern West Virginia, row after row of pipe is stockpiled in preparation for construction of the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of several major natural gas pipelines that will crisscross the state as the industry booms. Photo: F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail

In a West Virginia MetroNews debate before he won another term in Congress, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., defended President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy, saying the state had benefited disproportionately.

“Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia,” he said, responding to Kendra Fershee, his Democratic opponent.

Is McKinley’s statement accurate?

Earlier this year, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis — the federal office that calculates economic growth in the states — showed that West Virginia ranked 11th in inflation-adjusted growth in gross domestic product between 2016 and 2017, with a 2.6 percent increase. That’s not the same as eighth, but it’s close.

That data, however, was subsequently updated, and the newer data is less favorable to West Virginia.

In the most recent calculations, West Virginia actually ranked 19th out of the 50 states in year-over-year change in GDP, with a 2.2 percent increase. So West Virginia was in the top half of the ratings table, but well below the eighth-place finish that McKinley cited.

A more impressive measurement for the state was one that McKinley didn’t mention — the increase in GDP per capita, a statistic that adjusts the size of growth to account for a state’s population.

Using that statistic, West Virginia actually ranked in a tie for first with Washington state. Both notched a 2.9 percent increase between 2016 and 2017.

 

Analysts say the expansion of West Virginia’s mining sector accounted for the lion’s share of the state’s GDP growth.

It’s also worth noting that a reason for West Virginia’s high rates of per-capita GDP growth is population loss — not a positive sign for the state.

McKinley’s office did not respond to an inquiry.

Our ruling

McKinley said, “Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia.”

The final data actually shows that West Virginia ranked quite a bit lower, at 19th. The state fared better using a different statistic that McKinley didn’t mention — per-capita GDP growth, where it was tied for first.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact. 

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Does West Virginia Have More Overdoses Than Any State?

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Photo: AP Photo

Does West Virginia have the nation’s leading rate of overdoses?

On Oct. 3, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., tweeted, “#WV has the highest overdose rate per capita of any state in our nation. That’s why I made sure the SUPPORT for Patients & Communities Act included a set aside for states like WV. This language more than tripled the amount of funding coming to our state for this coming year.”

 

Here, we’ll focus on whether West Virginia “has the highest overdose rate per capita of any state in our nation.”

We turned to an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was collected and analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The data is from 2016.

Manchin’s tweet wasn’t specific about whether he was referring to opioid overdoses specifically or overdoses generally. The Kaiser Family Foundation analysis includes data for both, so we looked at both categories.

On both lists, West Virginia has the unhappy distinction of ranking No. 1.

Here’s a chart showing the data for opioid overdoses specifically. The data looks at the number of overdoses per 100,000 population, which is an equivalent measure to per capita. The opioid overdose rate in West Virginia easily outpaces the second-ranking state, New Hampshire.

 

As for overdoses overall, West Virginia finishes first, with Ohio ranking second.

 

Our ruling

Manchin said that West Virginia “has the highest overdose rate per capita of any state in our nation.”

Official government data shows that West Virginia ranks first per capita in both opioid overdoses specifically and in overdoses more generally. We rate the statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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