Two Senate sources say they expect Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSanders: Trump 'delusional' on voter fraud claims McConnell to force vote on Trump's State Department pick McConnell: Voter fraud happens MORE (Ky.) to reach out to Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingLive coverage: Trump budget chief faces two Senate panels Trump's CIA chief clears Senate Overnight Defense: Trump nominates Air Force secretary | Senate clears CIA director | Details on first drone strike under Trump MORE (Maine) and centrist Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDemocrats delay vote on Sessions nomination Cabinet picks boost 2018 Dems Democrats expected to delay Sessions vote MORE (W.Va.) about joining the Senate Republican Conference.
Republicans have a 52-seat Senate majority and that could swell to 54 seats depending on the final vote tally in Alaska and a runoff in Louisiana next month. Both are solidly red states.
“I expect that Sen. McConnell will reach out to King and Manchin,” said one Senate source.
King is considered the more likely prospect to join Republicans. He has repeatedly said he would make a decision on which caucus to join in the next Congress based on what he thinks would be best for Maine.
King has announced he is holding a press conference at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Maine to discuss his future affiliation in the Senate.
Last month King floated the possibility of basing his decision on what McConnell or Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) offered as an enticement.
“The only, the only possibility would be if the Republicans are in the majority and they can offer me something that would be especially advantageous to Maine. Somebody said, ‘You may be a committee chair.’ I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody would want me that much,” he told The Washington Post.
King, however, would have much less leverage with a 52- or 54-seat Senate Republican majority than he would if the chamber were divided 50-50 and he could swing control to one party or another.
Senate Republicans argue it could still be in his interest to cross over because it would bolster the perception among Maine voters that he is a true independent, who can be a “switch hitter” depending on what’s best for his home state.
King last month endorsed Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who is one of McConnell’s closest friends in the Senate, for reelection.
A spokeswoman for King did not respond to a request for comment.
McConnell could enlist centrist Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) to help woo King. She and the independent former governor of Maine have worked closely on several bills.
Collins, however, has always said caucus affiliation would be entirely King’s decision. A source close to Collins was not aware of any entreaty to the independent lawmaker.
Manchin is a Democrat but he is an outspoken critic of President Obama’s environmental polices and has questioned Reid’s leadership, as well.
Manchin on Tuesday claimed Obama’s energy policies “absolutely” hurt Democratic chances among voters in coal country in Kentucky and West Virginia.
“It doesn't make sense that we have to fight so hard against our own government and our own administration and our president to try to find a balance,” Manchin told MSNBC.
Even so, Republicans think the chances of persuading him to join the GOP conference are much slimmer than with King.
Manchin is weighing another gubernatorial bid in West Virginia.