WASHINGTON -- Carte Goodwin became the Senate's newest and youngest member today, but the figure that mattered to Democrats was not his No. 100 seniority rank or age of 36 -- it was vote No. 60.
Just minutes after the West Virginia Democrat was sworn in by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Mr. Goodwin cast a vote to invoke cloture on an extension of federal unemployment benefits to 99 weeks. The Senate will vote on final passage of the bill this week, and then it will go to the House of Representatives, where passage is all but certain.
As of last week, the White House estimated 2.5 million Americans, including 173,900 Pennsylvania residents, had seen their benefits cut off before the 99-week mark because no extension had been approved.
The bill had been held up for weeks as Republicans protested adding $34 billion to the deficit and urged the new spending to be paid for, while Democrats said the emergency spending did not need to be offset.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., sided with the GOP, while Democrats were able to lure over Maine's centrist duo of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
But Democrats still had to wait for a replacement for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who died June 28, to get enough votes to break a filibuster.
They got it with Mr. Goodwin, the former counsel to Gov. Joe Manchin, who appointed Mr. Goodwin to the seat as a placeholder. Mr. Manchin also announced today -- as expected -- that he'll run for the seat in November.
Mr. Manchin sat in a packed spectators' gallery for the swearing-in ceremony; three rows behind him was Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is widely expected to challenge the governor for the seat.
After the swearing-in and the unemployment vote, a wide-eyed Mr. Goodwin stood by Majority Leader Harry Reid to face a horde of reporters and photographers outside the Senate floor.
"I could not feel more privileged than I do that my first vote as a member of the United States Senate happens to be a vote that helps millions of Americans and over 12,000 West Virginians who are still looking for work," Mr. Goodwin said.
"Obviously, no one can replace Sen. Byrd, nor can anyone really hope to fill his shoes, but I feel privileged to have this opportunity to try to emulate his work ethic and his commitment to ??? this body and the state of West Virginia."
Daniel Malloy: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-445-9980. Follow him on Twitter at PG_in_DC.