Republicans are making some big promises to try to lure West Virginia Senator-elect Joe Manchin to cross the aisle.
Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects – a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington.
It’s one of Manchin’s pet projects and could mean big money for the state’s coal producers.
“Republicans believe in an âall of the above’ approach to energy,” one top Senate aide told Power Play. “And coal-to-diesel could certainly be part of that.”
Manchin’s switch could mean Republican support for not just $1 billion in seed money for the project but also a deal, much sought in coal country, to require the armed forces to use converted coal for fuel.
Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and IndependentÂ Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.
If Manchin, Nelson and Lieberman switched, it would leave the Senate in a 50-50 deadlock.
But Team Manchin, so far, is sticking with the campaign line that the two-term conservative governor is heading to Washington to change the way his party operates and to look for chances to work on bipartisan projects.
“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”
The first indication of where Manchin will stand likely comes next week in the lame duck session.
Labor groups who backed Manchin over Republican John Raese are pushing hard for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill, already passed by the House, would require employers who have facilities in multiple states to pay all their employees the same wage.
It would be a coup for unions, because it would reduce the appeal of right-to-work states to companies looking to add or relocate plants. One union contract anywhere would set pay rates nationwide.
Manchin, though, was also backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which vehemently opposes the bill.