Manchin to name interim senator Friday

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will appoint an interim senator to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) on Friday.

Manchin also released a draft of the legislation to amend the state's election code to allow for a special election this November. Lawmakers will debate the fix during a special legislative session beginning Thursday.  

If passed, the legislation would allow Manchin to call a special election for this November to fill Byrd's seat. A primary would be held in either August or September.

The bill would allow Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to "modify dates, deadlines or procedures to comply with a proclamation" from the governor.

“The governor’s bill is very simple,” Manchin's director of legislative affairs and policy Jim Pitrolo said in a statement. "We are taking the Attorney General’s opinion and clarifying state code so there can be no doubt as to how the law should be interpreted. This bill would merely clarify the state code so that there is no question that we could have a special primary and special general election."

The governor's office said Manchin and the secretary of state have been meeting with a bipartisan group of county clerks to outline the process for a special primary and general. 

“Releasing the bill early should give legislators enough time to give it a full and thorough review. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant informs us that absolutely every day counts if we are going to be able to have a special primary election," Manchin said in a statement. 

Manchin's office announced the decision for an interim replacement for Byrd would be announced by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Manchin has said he doesn't want the scope of Thursday's scheduled special session to move beyond ironing out succession plans for Byrd's seat, but Republicans said Tuesday not everyone is likely to be on board with that.

Republicans expect plenty of floor amendments to be offered during the session.

"A lot of people are interested in different fixes to different parts of the code," said Troy Berman, executive director of the West Virginia GOP.

The announcement from the governor's office comes after Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) suggested Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed a desire for Manchin to move more quickly on naming an appointee.

Rockefeller told the Washington Examiner earlier Tuesday that both he and Reid have pressured the governor to name an interim senator.

"I can certainly see why they're saying that," Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told The Hill. "I don't know why the governor has been dragging his heels."

Capito is universally seen among Republicans in the state as the best hope against Manchin in a special election, but Capito said she is still weighing her options and plans to announce her intentions "quickly" after the special session wraps.

On an interim appointment, Capito said she hopes whoever Manchin names will reflect the "opinions of West Virginians against cap-and-trade."

Capito also suggested the special session should not be limited to the succession process for the Byrd seat. "Why wouldn't we address gubernatorial succession at the same time?" Capito asked.

State law is also unclear as to whether Capito could run for re-election to the House and for Byrd's Senate seat simultaneously if she decided to run in a November special election.

The Senate Democratic leadership is anxious for another Democratic vote as they try to move forward on tough agenda items such as financial reform and an energy bill.

This story was updated at 6:47 p.m. and 7:09 p.m.