McConnell expected to woo King, Manchin

McConnell expected to woo King, Manchin
© Greg Nash

Two Senate sources say they expect Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Confirm Scott Palk for the Western District of Oklahoma MORE (Ky.) to reach out to Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAngus King: Trump's not draining swamp, he's adding alligators Overnight Cybersecurity: Last-ditch effort to stop expanded hacking powers fails Intel Dems push for info on Russia and election be declassified MORE (Maine) and centrist Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Trump meets with Dem senator amid Cabinet speculation Overnight Energy: Walden wins Energy gavel | Trump looks at Dems to head Energy, Interior 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.

Wooing King and Manchin could boost the GOP majority to 56 seats and insulate it in 2016 when the electoral map and voter turnout projections are much more favorable for Democrats.

“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.

A spokesman for Manchin dismissed the likelihood of a party switch.
"Sen. Manchin is a proud West Virginia Democrat and will remain so," said spokesman Jonathan Kott.