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

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mmigration 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: Joe Manchin Wrong that W.Va. is First in Nation in Veterans

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Sen. Joe Manchin speaks at a teachers' rally in Charleston, W.Va., on Sept. 16, 2018. Photo: Emily Martin/PolitiFact

Addressing a crowd of teachers and public employees at a Sept. 16 rally at the Capitol in Charleston, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., touted a number of things his home state can be proud of.

“I’m from a little state, most patriotic state in the nation,” Manchin told the crowd. “More veterans per capita, fought in more wars, shed more blood, lost more lives … than any state. On top of that we’ve done all the heavy lifting. We mined the coal that made the steel that built the guns and ships, built the factories, built the middle class that gave you the quality of life you have today.”

Was he right that West Virginia has “more veterans per capita” than any state?

Manchin’s office did not respond to inquiries for this article, but we turned to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. We found a chart ranking the states based on the number of veterans as a percentage of the state’s civilian population age 18 and older. In this chart, West Virginia ranked 14th in the nation.

However, the most recent data in this chart was from 2013, so we decided to look at any more recent data we could find.

In 2016, there were 145,171 veterans in West Virginia, according to Census Bureau data. That’s just under 8 percent of the state’s estimated population of 1,815,857. (For this calculation, we used total population rather than just civilians over 18.)

West Virginia’s percentage was higher than the national percentage — nationwide, veterans made up 5.7 percent of the population in 2016 — but it ranked below a number of other states. In fact, West Virginia doesn’t even make the top five:

• Alaska: 9.2 percent

• Maine: 8.5 percent

• Montana: 8.4 percent

• Virginia: 8.2 percent

• Wyoming: 8.1 percent

Our ruling

Manchin said that West Virginia has “more veterans per capita” than any state.

Compared to the nation as a whole, West Virginia’s percentage of veterans is higher than average. But it’s not first on the list — in fact, it’s not even in the top five.

We rate the statement False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: David McKinley Correct about Rise in W.Va. Tax Receipts

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Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo: AP Photo

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., touted his state’s economic performance in an Aug. 14 tweet.

He tweeted, “West Virginia’s economic comeback continues. Personal income tax collections up 14% from 2017. Most people working is good news.”

 

The unemployment rate in West Virginia has been steady at either 5.3 percent or 5.4 percent since September 2017, lower than the state’s rate for most of the period between 2009 and 2016.

Here, though, we’ll focus on McKinley’s claim about tax collections.

To support this point, McKinley linked to an article in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. However, the 14 percent figure doesn’t appear in the article. So we decided to take a closer look.

We turned to the official state budget website and looked at the revenue collection data for July going back to 2000. This data does support McKinley’s data point.

In July 2018, the state collected $145,494,000 in personal income tax revenues. By comparison, in July 2017, the state collected $128,146,000. That’s an increase of 13.5 percent, which rounds up to 14 percent — just as McKinley tweeted.

For historical perspective, that’s well below the largest increases, but it’s the third highest year-over-year increase since 2001.

Our ruling

McKinley wrote that in West Virginia, “personal income tax collections (were) up 14% from 2017.”

That’s correct when you compare income tax collections in July 2018 to July 2017. It’s also the third-largest July-to-July improvement since 2001. We rate the statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Did Patrick Morrisey Make Efforts to Put Educators in Jail?

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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey speaks on Sept. 18, 2017, at a news conference at Marshall University. Photo: Joh Raby/AP

The West Virginia teachers’ strike in February was months ago, but rhetoric about the strike has continued to crop up on the campaign trail.

On Sept. 14, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — who is in a tough reelection contest against West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — tweeted, “It’s really a shame that Pat doesn’t have the guts to answer questions about his lawsuit to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, his career as a Washington lobbyist for the opioid industry, or his efforts to put educators in jail.”

 

We’ve already looked at the question of pre-existing conditions and his lobbying history, so we decided to look at the question about the teachers’ strike.

PolitiFact previously concluded that Morrisey was on solid legal ground when he said the teacher strike was unlawful. But did he make efforts to put teachers behind bars, as Manchin charged?

Let’s take a closer look. (Manchin’s office did not respond to inquiries.)

The strike

Teachers in West Virginia went on a nine-day strike on Feb. 23, 2018, after Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill giving teachers and other state employees a 1 percent to 2 percent pay raise, an amount they deemed insufficient. The striking teachers sought higher salaries and relief from rising health care costs.

The strike involved 34,000 workers and touched all 55 counties; it was considered one of the nation’s biggest strikes in recent years, according to The New York Times. It ended when Justice signed a bill giving teachers a 5 percent raise.

Morrisey’s stance

From the start, Morrisey asserted that the strike was unlawful.

On Feb. 21, 2018, he tweeted, “The impending work stoppage is unlawful and should come to an end.”

As we’ve previously reported, there was precedent for this. During a 1990 teacher strike, the West Virginia Supreme Court found that the stoppage was unlawfulbecause “public employees provide essential public services which, if interrupted by strikes, would threaten the public welfare.” A preliminary injunction was issued by Jefferson County Court in 1990, ending the strike.

MetroNews reported that Morrissey was ready to take legal action against striking teachers if he was asked to do so under the law.

“Let us make no mistake,” Morrisey told MetroNews on Feb. 21. “The impending work stoppage is unlawful. State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike.”

“Unlawful” doesn’t mean “criminal”

However, Morrisey’s words were more precise — and accurate — than Manchin’s. Morrisey said the strikes would be unlawful — but that doesn’t mean they would lead to “jail” for striking teachers.

“The teachers may have been subject to an injunction to go back to work, but they could not have been prosecuted for going out on strike,” said West Virginia University law professor Bob Bastress.

In a news release at the time, Morrisey talked about the possibility of seeking an injunction — but not jail. “State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike,” he wrote.

When we reached out to Morrisey’s campaign, a spokesman said that Morrisey never suggested locking up teachers. “You can go through his statements from the time, and you won’t find anything that suggests what Manchin is claiming,” the campaign said in a statement.

When asked about what Morrisey meant when hold MetroNews he was willing to take “legal action” against teachers, the Morrisey campaign cited an opinion letter by the then-Attorney General, Democrat Roger Tompkins, in 1990.

Tompkins wrote that teachers who went on strike in 1990 could be “disqualified from teaching in a public school for one year, and the state department of education and county board of education may withhold all papers and credentials of such teacher.”

These are serious consequences — but well short of jail.

“Morrisey has civil legal authority, which does not include criminal authority,” the campaign said. “That authority is left to the governor and the criminal justice system.”

Our ruling

Manchin tweeted that Morrisey made “efforts to put educators in jail.”

Morrisey, in his capacity as attorney general, said the strike was unlawful — but that meant that striking teachers could have been punished by disciplinary actions, not criminal charges that could land them in jail. While the disciplinary actions could have had severe consequences in some cases, Manchin’s suggestion that “jail” could have resulted is a significant exaggeration.

We rate the statement False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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