WHEELING - As U.S. military conflicts overseas wind to a close and national employment numbers show signs of improvement, federal leaders see positive signs ahead for America - but they also see plenty of work as the nation heads in a new direction.
"Our mission should be ending the war on terror," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., an opponent of America's continued military involvement in Afghanistan.
"We should not be trying to occupy countries and trying to change their culture. ... We need to take care of America, make our country strong again, and defend ourselves against anyone who wants to do us harm."
Manchin doesn't believe the nation is heading toward another recession.
"I don't think so - if it is, it's self inflicted," he said. "Our country is ready to take off. Look at the stock market. ... If the market just had confidence that we will be able as Congress to govern ourselves in a rational way - and be something they can count on. (Businesses need to know) that we're going to work with you and not against you.
"When people are uncertain, that's when you have problems. And the problem is uncertainty right now. People are sitting back and not engaging because of it."
Ohio's unemployment rate has decreased from a high of 10.6 percent in 2009 to today's rate of 6.7 percent, noted Megan Dubyak, spokeswoman for Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
"While this is important progress, Sen. Brown believes there is more that we must do - that means leveling the playing field for American manufacturers ... and investing in infrastructure and worker training."
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, agrees Congress needs to do a better job in crafting legislation that better serves the country.
"As the number of people unemployed remains well-above pre-recession levels, Ohioans are rightly concerned about the direction of our country," he said. "In order to grow the economy and create jobs, we need better policies coming out of Washington.
"I will continue to fight for pro-growth tax reform, regulatory relief, expanded exports and other new ways to increase economic growth. But to achieve real economic recovery, Washington must also address runaway spending. Only a combination of stronger economic growth and spending restraint will work to get America back on track.
"As I serve in my new role as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I will be in a better position to fight to rein in Washington's reckless spending, modernize our antiquated and inefficient tax code, and reform our important but unsustainable entitlement programs."
Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., doesn't see America entering any more military conflicts in the foreseeable future.
"I think the nation is war weary," he said.
McKinley added America will see "more of the same in Congress," and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"Our conservative element - we're the last line of defense from some of the nonsense that could come out of Washington," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner "has said this repeatedly - if we weren't there ... we're the only thing that stands between (the country) and some absolutely overwhelming regulations that are coming out. We can stop some of this. We haven't been able to stop it yet, but we've stopped the hemorrhaging."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sees money crunching in the nation's future.
"While we cannot predict the future, we know one threat is staring us down-our nation's outstanding debt," she said.
"The last time the Senate passed a budget was April 29, 2009. Since 2009, Fitch Ratings has downgraded our country's credit worthiness and our national debt has surpassed $16 trillion. To get the ball moving, I voted for the 'No Budget, No Pay Act,' which simply states that if Congress doesn't pass a budget that cuts spending, members' pay will be withheld. No one should get paid for not doing their jobs."