Manchin touts agenda

WASHINGTON – A U.S. senator from West Virginia said he wants to support a measure to extend unemployment benefits for 90 days if a way to pay for the $6.5 billion expense is defined.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., hosted a press conference call Tuesday with West Virginia reporters to discuss the extension of unemployment benefits and his 2014 Senate agenda.

The U.S. Senate is going through procedural votes this week on extending unemployment benefits, which recently expired, for three months.

A 60-37 Senate vote Tuesday kept the measure alive after six Republicans sided with Democrats on the vote that kept the measure moving forward in the U.S. Senate through procedural votes.

Manchin said he supports temporarily extending emergency unemployment benefits for three months, but with conditions.

“You can’t borrow your way out of debt,” he said. “There has to be a reasonable way to pay this off.”

Manchin proposed ways to offset the cost of the extension.

First, he proposed to close the carried interest loophole that allows certain investment managers to pay a capital gains tax rate rather than a personal income tax rate. This would reduce the deficit by $15 billion-$20 billion over the next 10 years.

Second, he proposes eliminating “duel eligibility” for individuals who receive both disability insurance and unemployment insurance at the same time. This would save almost $5 billion over 10 years.

The senator said he has heard both sides of the argument that extending benefits will prompt people not to seek work while others have told him they have continually tried to find work, but there was nothing available for people with their skill set.

Manchin said he supports initatives to retrain those people for jobs that are available and there needs to be better communication to tell people where there are jobs available.

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said with more than one million Americans, including nearly 7,000 in West Virginia, trying to get by without emergency unemployment insurance, Congress needs to step up for those men and women who are still looking for work. To continue to support the economic recovery, the three-month extension of unemployment benefits should be passed, he said.

“While our economy continues to improve, it should be a top priority to put forward sensible policies that can both stimulate growth and provide critical support to people as they pursue job opportunities,” Rockefeller said. “Supporting West Virginians while they are actively looking for work is a moral obligation and Congress never should have let emergency unemployment insurance expire.”

In other business, Manchin said there could be a budget agreement between the House and Senate by the end of next week.

“That is good news,” he said. “It speaks volumes of where we are at.”

He continues to meet in a bi-partisan coalition with fellow senators, including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on budget issues “working to find common ground” in budget proposals.

He said the country needs to get back to a sense of “regularity” in the country’s finances.

“Things won’t change significantly until the country comes to terms with its finances,” Manchin said. “We need a budget system that is fair and consistent.”