Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., laid out his legislative priorities for the 113th Congress during a press conference call with statewide media Thursday.
However, the senator also took time to weigh in on less serious subjects such as MTV's new reality show "Buckwild," and even answered the question that's been the target of much speculation lately - whether he's considering a run for the presidency in 2016.
Manchin ranked establishing energy independence, combatting what he called America's "culture of violence" and ending the war in Afghanistan among his top priorities.
The senator said he believed the U.S. will be "a more secure nation" if "we go state by state" and identify every possible source through which to attain energy independence, from "the latest and greatest in coal technology" to "a safe environmental approach to (harvesting) natural gas," as well as wind power and biofuels.
The senator is also in favor of establishing a Commission on Mass Violence, which would help legislators and the American people "get a complete, clear understanding of the challenges and deficiencies and misnomers that are out there" relative to mass violence, he said. Referencing gun owners' fears in the wake of the mass shooting in Newton, Conn., Manchin assured West Virginians that their Second Amendment rights were not in danger.
"That's not in danger in any way, shape or form," the senator said. "The first step to me is to keep guns out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them (through background checks) and then put together a Commission on Mass Violence as soon as possible." Manchin said he believed such a commission should be made up of members of the National Rifle Association, mental health care providers, educators, police officers and prevention resource officers that frequently staff middle and high schools.
"If you truly want to curb and change the culture (of violence), you have to look at everything," Manchin said.
When asked if he supported the NRA proposition that armed guards be placed in every school in the nation, Manchin said that although "that's definitely something that should be looked into," he has found that most teachers aren't interested in carrying firearms.
Turning to ending the war in Afghanistan, Manchin said he is "absolutely committed to getting out."
"It's a horrible war," he said, adding that he isn't opposed to drone warfare. "But if that (fighting terrorism) means using our drones in the most dangerous areas to make sure terrorists don't do harm to our people, I'm very much in favor of that."
Specific legislation Manchin supports includes a seniors financial bill of rights that would improve seniors' access to financial services and support, and a bill that reclassifies hydrocodone from a Schedule 3 drug (a category of drugs that have less potential for abuse or addiction than Schedule I or II drugs and have a useful medical purpose) to a Schedule 2 drug (a category of drugs considered to have a strong potential for abuse or addiction but also have legitimate medical use).
When asked whether he was contemplating a run for the presidency in 2016, Manchin laughed.
"That's crazy," he said. "Oh my goodness."
When one reporter asked whether Manchin has had a chance to watch MTV's new reality show "Buckwild," which is filmed in West Virginia, the senator said, "Nope, and I'm not going to either."
"Listen, don't call that a reality show, call it entertainment," he continued. "As sick as it is, if you're going to watch it, watch it as entertainment. It's sure as hell not reality of West Virginia."
Manchin said he was surprised he hadn't been asked about the Pentagon's decision to overturn a military ban that prevented women from serving in combat roles in the military.
"I think it's wonderful," he said. "I think our women from West Virginia who serve will be just wonderful."
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