By JOSELYN KING
WHEELING - U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin joined just 10 senators Saturday in voting against a two-month extension to payroll tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2011.
Manchin has consistently voted against extension to the tax cuts, while expressing concerns the cuts come at the expense of the federal Social Security system. He believes another funding mechanism is needed.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, all voted in favor of the payroll tax cut, which passed the Senate with a vote of 89-10. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week before leaving for the holidays.
"No matter where anyone stands on the payroll tax debate, this two-month proposal is a failure for the American people," Manchin said."I am furious and disgusted that anyone could imagine this stopgap measure is the best that Congress could offer hard-working Americans, seniors and the unemployed. Delaying a decision for another two months makes no sense - especially when Congress will not be working for one of those months. Only in Washington would you get a month off for failing to do your job. West Virginians and all Americans deserve better, and I will not play these games.
"While some at the highest level are playing partisan politics, I was willing and prepared to stay in Washington through the holidays and January to find a reasonable compromise," he said.
"I was willing to compromise because I believe that both sides can give up ground to do the right thing for the people who sent us here .... Looking ahead, I will continue to work hard to find a responsible compromise, and I hope that my colleagues and the President will do what is right and not allow this debate to degenerate into a partisan mudfight that serves election-year politics, but does not serve the American people."
Manchin was only one of two Democrats to vote against the bill, with the other being Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Republicans voting against were senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Jim Moran of Kansas and Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of Alabama. Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont also voted against the measure.
To gain Republican support, the legislation also contains a provision to speed approval of construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Gulf of Mexico facilities in Texas. The move is opposed by most Democrats, and by the Obama administration.
Rockefeller explained why he voted for the measure.
"My top priorities are creating jobs and helping all the West Virginians working hard to make ends meet," he said. "There are signs that the economy is getting better, but the West Virginia families I talk to every day just don't feel that yet. This bill provides needed relief for working families facing hard times by keeping more money in their paychecks, and helping those out of work and searching for jobs to pay their bills and put food on the table. And I have made sure that Social Security is fully protected and remains safe and strong.
"I will fight to continue this critical relief for families for a full year. We are not done here."
Statements from Brown or Portman were not available Saturday.