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Wait for Unemployment Extension Continues, as Manchin Holds Off on Naming Byrd Successor

The 2.1 million Americans hoping for a federal extension of unemployment insurance benefits are still waiting on Gov. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia.

The governor will name a person to hold Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) Senate seat temporarily, until a permanent replacement can be voted in this fall. (Byrd passed away at 92 earlier this month.) That temporary senator can vote on behalf of West Virginians, and Manchin can send him or her to Washington with few procedural hurdles. Given that Democrats need Byrd’s replacement in place to pass the extension of unemployment benefits — which have lapsed for 2.1 million people since the end of May — the White House and Senate Democratic leadership have pressured Manchin to hurry, and many expected Byrd’s replacement to be walking the Senate halls this morning.

But no dice. Politico reports that Manchin might not name the replacement until later this week — or not until the fall, spelling real trouble for 300,000 Americans per week:

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said in an interview with POLITICO Saturday that he will not announce his decision on a Senate bid until two other steps are taken: a special session of the state legislature clarifies the law determining when an election for the seat to replace the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd can be held and he names an interim successor to hold that seat in the meantime. “My intentions [on a Senate bid] would be third, that’s the last thing I would do,” Manchin said at a meeting of the National Governor’s Association here.

The governor, a Democrat, has called the legislature back to Charleston for a session starting on Thursday to pass a bill making clear the special election to replace the iconic former senator can be held this November. Manchin has said it’s “highly likely” that he will run for Byrd’s former seat.

He explained that he wanted legislators to change state law to ensure that the special election he’ll ultimately call doesn’t come under legal challenge. “I’m being told by counsel and by all the people that have the legal knowledge that if we don’t clarify it — that’s why the need for the special session – you run the risk of having an invalid election,” Manchin said.

As for when he’ll name an interim replacement to give Senate Democrats a much-needed vote for the rest of this congressional session, the governor said he would meet with election attorneys Sunday night when he returned home from Boston to determine how soon he can make an appointment.

“Can we do it earlier or do we wait until the session?” he said. “They’ll give me all the pros and cons on that.”

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