W. Va. Senator May Boost Jobless Benefits

Carte Goodwin, right, soon to be sworn in as a U.S. senator, confers with an aide and another man on the steps of the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston. Bob Bird / AP

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has tapped his former chief counsel, a fellow Democrat, to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Robert C. Byrd, who died last month. 

The appointment of Carte Goodwin, who will occupy the seat until an expected special election in November, will have an immediate impact for Democrats. After he is sworn in next Tuesday, Goodwin "will make the 60th vote … we will take up and pass unemployment compensation,” said the state's other senator, Jay Rockefeller. A measure to extend unemployment benefits failed by one vote on June 30.   

Goodwin, a lawyer based in Charleston, W.V., was the youngest of the candidates Manchin reportedly considered.  He worked for the governor from 2005 to 2009, notably on legislation to improve coal-mine safety. 

Now 36, Goodwin becomes the Senate’s youngest member, as well as the 59th Democratic vote. He vowed to consider legislation independently, but did say he opposes the sort of cap-and-trade rules to regulate carbon emissions that have already passed in the House and are under consideration in the Senate.  “I will not support any legislation that threatens any West Virginia jobs,” Goodwin said at an afternoon press conference. 

The announcement only temporarily addresses the future of the state’s Senate delegation, in an election year in which Democrats face a tough task of retaining their majorities in Congress. West Virginia's state legislature is mulling a change to state law that would call a special election in November to choose Byrd’s permanent successor.

In picking a former aide, Manchin likely had his own political ambitions in mind. The governor has said he will probably run for Senate in November. Goodwin, asked minutes after Manchin’s announcement whether he would seek to keep the seat for more than a few months, answered flatly, “No.”