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Goodwin’s First Senate Vote a Big One

Senate Democrats introduced Tuesday the newest Member of their caucus, appointed West Virginia Sen. Carte Goodwin, and lauded him for providing the 60th vote that they needed to overcome a weeks-long Republican filibuster of a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits.

Goodwin, 36, was sworn in just minutes before the key procedural vote.

He replaces the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who died June 28 at age 92.

“Today, Carte Goodwin did Robert Byrd and West Virginia proud. Don’t let it be said that one vote doesn’t make a difference. One vote made a difference today for millions of Americans who have been out of work,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told reporters during a news conference.

Goodwin said he was proud of his first Senate vote and brushed off criticism that the unemployment benefits extension would add millions of dollars to the federal deficit.

“Obviously, the deficit is an issue that everyone needs to remain focused on. But I think it’s important to emphasize that this was a temporary, emergency measure, and one that was so needed by millions of Americans,” Goodwin said.

At that point, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cut in on a follow-up question to the West Virginia Democrat.

“And the other issue, since he’s No. 100 in seniority — I’m going to add a post script here,” Reid said. “The $34 billion we obligated today we’re going to get a return on that of about $75 billion.”

Meanwhile, Democrats emerged from their Tuesday luncheon without further details on energy legislation, which Reid has slated for floor action next week.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.) said the topic “was brought up at the 11th hour — the last six minutes of the lunch.”

While the path forward is still unclear, Democratic aides said Reid is pressing ahead. But Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) noted, “We’re going to be here September, October, November, so there’s time” for an energy bill later in the year.

Lieberman and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who together introduced a broad energy package in May, met with electric utility executives this week to continue trying to strike a compromise that will win industry support and 60 Senate votes. But Lieberman said those executives said, “We need more time.”

Leadership aides, however, reiterated that Reid wants to move it to the floor by next week. But when asked by reporters, Reid declined to commit to bringing legislation to the floor before the Senate adjourned for the five-week August recess. Reid said his Conference would meet Thursday to discuss a path forward.

“We’re really not at a point where I can determine what I think is best for the caucus,” Reid said.

The Majority Leader was more definitive when asked when Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan would get a confirmation vote of the full Senate, saying one would occur before the August recess. However, Reid declined to specify an exact date for the vote.

Kagan’s nomination was reported out of the Judiciary Committee earlier Tuesday.

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