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McConnell doesn't expect Manchin to flip parties

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) said on Thursday he has no expectation that Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Senators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' MORE will switch parties, even as the West Virginia Democrat faces fierce backlash from progressives. 

"Well, Sen. Manchin has pointed out over and over again he's been a Democrat all of his life. I am certainly not anticipating that he's going to cross the aisle," McConnell said during a Fox News interview, when asked about the possibility. 

"But I do admire his willingness to protect the Senate as an institution," he added. 

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Speculation that Manchin, the most conservative member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, could flip parties as his state shifts increasingly to the right has swirled around Washington for years. 

Manchin is in frequent touch with Republicans, including GOP members of leadership, who note that they speak with him frequently. 

He said in 2019 that McConnell has tried to get him to become a Republican "many times" but added it could never happen because of where he stands on taxes and health care. 

Such a flip would be a huge blow to Democrats. With a 50-50 Senate, losing just one seat would be enough to shift control of the chamber to Republican hands. 

But Manchin has repeatedly shut down questions about if he would flip parties. He won reelection in 2018 in a state former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE easily carried in both 2016 and 2020. 

"I've never considered it from that standpoint because I know I can change more from where I'm at," Manchin told Vox earlier this year