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Manchin calls for path for immigrants to fill US jobs

WV senator, Chamber official say negotiation needed on debt ceiling debate

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., discusses immigration reform and debt ceiling talks during the first day of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s DMDC 2023 trip to Washington, D.C. Photo by the Greater Des Moines Partnership

The U.S. should adopt a worker visa program that would allow people from other countries to legally migrate here while keeping the country’s border secure, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said Wednesday.

Manchin spoke during the first day of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s DMDC 2023, the annual trip to Washington, D.C., where about 170 Central Iowa leaders will advocate for issues critical to the region.

Manchin and a senior vice president with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also discussed the ongoing debate over raising the country’s debt ceiling.

Addressing the participants during a lunch event at the Hilton Capitol Hotel, Manchin said there isn’t a company that doesn’t need workers, and that the solution may be found in a combination of programs that would allow people from other countries to come here and fill jobs.

“I’ll assure you that of the thousands of people you see at our border right now, 90% are here because they want a job,” he said. “They want a life. They want some freedom to be able to enjoy what you and I take for granted.”

He said a worker visa program would vet applicants to weed out those who may have criminal records.

“You’re getting good people who want a life, and that person should be allowed to come into our country to work on a visa,” Manchin said.

Under a worker visa program, a person would have a year or two to prove themselves and show why they want to be an American, he said.

The program would also have benefits to the U.S., Manchin said.

“You got more people paying into the tax system,” he said. “We don’t have enough young workers, and we’re not producing them.”

But Manchin said the immigration system cannot be fixed without securing the southern border, which he said is one element, along with energy independence, that is needed for the U.S. to maintain its superpower status in the world.

He said the solution isn’t just to build fences to close the borders. The country needs to have a mechanism that will allow people to come here legally to work or go to school, he said.

“When people come here for additional education, shouldn’t they at least get a green card if we know they’re in STEM, all these jobs that we need?” Manchin said.

He also addressed the ongoing debate over raising the country’s debt limit.

The current debt limit is about $31.4 million. The federal government has until June 1 to raise that limit or face defaulting on its loans.

The moderate Democrat continued to urge the Biden administration to seek a compromise with Republicans.

“There’s no reason for us to be in this high-stakes poker game,” Manchin said. “It’s not fair to play with the American economy because of politics, and that’s what’s happening.”

He said the Republican-controlled House of Representatives did its job.

“They got something passed and gave it to the Senate,” Manchin said. “The Senate has to do its job. If you don’t like it, then pass something you think you can do.”

Manchin spoke to the DMDC 2023 participants as talks continued in Congress to find compromise on raising the debt ceiling. A day earlier, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy held their first meeting in three months to discuss the issue.

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Evan Jenkins, senior vice president of government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discusses the debt ceiling debate Wednesday with participants of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s DMDC trip. Photo by the Greater Des Moines Partnership

Evan Jenkins, senior vice president of government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke later in the day, telling the DMDC 2023 participants that the country is on the cusp of making history because it has never before defaulted on its debt.

He said the national Chamber did not expect a solution to come out of Biden’s meeting Tuesday with McCarthy.

“What we were hoping for was that they would come out and say we are agreeing to meet again, and they did, and to say that we’ve got our people talking behind the scenes, and they said both of those things,” Jenkins said. “So we took away that that is a positive sign.”

Despite the positive signals, concerns remain, Jenkins said.

“We are really concerned that there will be a miscalculation with regard to the timing and the process of getting a solution through the House, through the Senate, to the president’s desk and the president’s signature,” Jenkins said. “As the time gets closer, the chances for miscalculation go up, and we’re really concerned about that.”

He said the Chamber has been calling for negotiations to find a compromise on the debt limit.

“This idea that the White House says we don’t negotiate and pass a clean debt limit, that’s a nonstarter,” he said. “Seven of the last 10 debt limit increases were done with a negotiated deal, including spending reforms.”

“There needs to be a negotiation, and it needs to be bipartisan,” Jenkins said. “Nothing is going to get through this Congress without bipartisan support. So there absolutely needs to be a negotiation.”

Manchin said reaching a compromise on raising the debt ceiling isn’t enough.

“What you do, you want to cure it, but you want to prevent it from happening again,” he said.


Michael Crumb

Michael Crumb is a senior staff writer at Business Record. He covers economic development, transportation, energy & environment, culture, sales & marketing.

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