By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to move forward on a measure to extend unemployment benefits.
The 60-37 roll call vote, originally slated for Monday, was delayed to Tuesday morning because of weather delays, which kept some Senate members from arriving in Washington.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W,Va., voted with 53 other members of the Democratic caucus to allow the Senate to move forward with a full debate on the measure.
In a conference call Tuesday, Manchin said that while he supported extending unemployment benefits, he was concerned about how to pay for the extensions.
“You just can’t continue to borrow yourself out of debt. I’m looking for a reasonable way to pay for it,” Manchin said.
One idea Manchin said had been floated was to end dual eligibility for disability and unemployment benefits, where in some instances someone on unemployment is also receiving disability benefits.
“If you eliminate that, there are up to $5 billion in savings,” Manchin said. He said this could help offset the cost of extending unemployment benefits for another 90 days.
He said that if Congress doesn’t find a way to pay for the unemployment benefits in 90 days, he would be unlikely to support a measure to further extend benefits.
“If our economy is in the same position as it is today or better in 90 days, they would never have my vote again unless there was a complete way to pay for it,” Manchin said. “I worry about paying for it because I worry about my kids inheriting the debt that we’re all going to create for them.
“We have to get back to the regular order of things.”
Manchin said another concern he has is how to give people the opportunity to get the skills needed for in-demand skilled jobs.
“I hear a lot of people saying I’m trying really hard (to find a job), but don’t have the skill sets,” Manchin said.
He said that he would like states to be able to identify where they need to put their money for skilled training within their state.
“We know better in West Virginia than they do in Washington. One size doesn’t fit all,” Manchin said.
He also voiced support for a discussion on raising the minimum wage.
Speaking on the economy, Manchin said that it’s important to step back and try to look at the economy as a whole.
“We’re not looking at the whole picture. We’re looking at part of it. And are we really fixing it?” Manchin said.
Manchin said he would like to see major tax reform. He said that people whose income comes from investment and hedge funds are able to pay taxes at capital gains tax rates, rather than at higher income tax rates.
“We think that needs to be changed. I don’t find anybody who thinks that’s fair,” Manchin said.
Manchin said that some of his legislative priorities in the coming session include pursuing energy independence, withdrawing from Afghanistan, and improving job skills training opportunities for the unemployed.
“I think it’s time for us to come back to America and strengthen America,” Manchin said.
Email Colleen S. Good at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.