Most of the newly-elected Senators will be sworn in with the start of the 112th Congress on Jan. 3.
But those elected to fill a Senate vacancy are sworn in immediately, including West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who won election on Tuesday to replace Senator Robert Byrd who died this summer. Manchin will be sworn in on Monday.
And Republicans aren’t wasting any time trying to get him 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 ‘all 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.
Manchin got elected to fill out the remaining two years of Byrd’s term. And because he’ll be back on the ballot again in 2012, the GOP feels he is more willing to consider a party switch.
During his campaign for the Senate seat, the political climate in blue collar West Virginia soured on President Obama and his agenda. On cap and trade, Manchin once suggested that voters in West Virginia would have to go along with President Obama’s vision on it. But cap and trade become so toxic in coal country, that Joe Manchin literally shot at the legislation in his campaign commercial, saying: “I’ll take dead aim at the cap and trade bill.”
Joe Manchin is Catholic and ran on a pro-life platform for governor in 2004 and 2008. During the health care debate, however, he pledged support for the pro-abortion health care bill, saying on March 15: “I’d be for it.”
But just weeks before the election, he said that he would have voted against it. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.