WHEELING - Local members of Congress believe educating the nation's students, solving the never-ending federal financial crisis and ending military action overseas will continue to be the big issues in Washington this year.
Solving those problems should help to pave a new direction for the nation, they added.
"As our nation continues to recover from the recession and build a stronger foundation for the future, the 113th Congress faces many tough decisions that will have lasting effects for many years to come," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "Throughout my time in public service - almost 50 years - I have been dedicated to making sure that hard-working families in West Virginia get a fair shake.
"This Congress, we must decide how to create an education system that focuses on science and math so that our students are competitive in a global economy. We must decide how to care for millions of veterans, including those returning from recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must decide how to provide retirement security to millions of Americans, including those left without health care or pensions when their companies go bankrupt or ship jobs overseas. And, we must decide to move our health system forward through a health reform law that gives us many tools to improve the quality and availability of health care."
And the decisions will not be easy, according to Rockefeller.
"But we have a responsibility to the American people to forge ahead," he commented. "For my part, I intend to keep doing what I have always done - fight for workers, fight for fairness, fight for the vulnerable, and fight for West Virginia."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the nation's financial system must be addressed before any other issues can be tackled.
"Do you care about educating your children? Do you care about taking care of the neediest? Helping people help themselves? Making people more productive and creating more opportunities so people can work?" he said.
"It's all around the economy. If you don't fix the economy and get your house in order, you can forget about all the other stuff."
Meghan Dubyak, a spokeswoman for Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Brown believes Congress must continue to stand up for American manufacturing by addressing currency manipulation - primarily from China. He authored legislation during the last Congress to address the issue.
Brown also believes Congress must pass a farm bill, continue to invest in infrastructure, and work to reduce the deficit
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said Congress took an important step forward recently when it passed the "No Budget, No Pay Act." The measure extends the federal debt ceiling through May 18, and requires Congress to pass a budget by April 15. Under the act, members of a chamber not passing a budget will have their pay withheld.
"The Senate has failed to pass a budget for the last four years," Johnson noted. "Every hard-working family has a budget. It's only reasonable for Washington to do the same.
"It is immoral and unfair to bury our children and grandchildren with a crushing debt that will result in a down-sized American Dream for them. This president and Senate must begin to work with the House, rather than viewing the House as an inconvenient obstacle, and we must come together to take concrete steps to cut Washington spending and put America on a path toward a balanced budget."
Another issue pending in Washington deals with the sequester, set to kick in March 1. The move would cuts billions from spending programs - primarily in the defense industries - to help right the nation's financial ship.
Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., also said federal spending issues must be addressed.
"The most important issue - if it isn't, somebody is missing the boat - is getting our economy running again," he said. "Our economy should be growing at 3 to 4 percent, but it's not. We're under 2 percent.
"I don't want that to be the norm ... the new level. We have to find a formula sometime - without Keynesian or government spending. You can't keep spending this amount of money."
Currently, the national debt is about $16.6 trillion, or about $52,660 per person.