Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday urged Sen. Joe Manchin to join the Republican Party after the moderate Democrat bucked his own by effectively sinking a massive economic spending and climate bill, but the Republican leader acknowledged that the party switch likely won’t happen.
“No wonder why Joe Manchin is uncomfortable on the Democratic side. … He would be a lot more comfortable on our side,” McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said on Fox News, arguing that the Democratic Party has shifted sharply to the left.
But the Senate minority leader added that he didn’t think Manchin would become a Republican and hasn’t gotten any indication of such. “I don’t expect this to happen,” he said.
McConnell’s comments on Wednesday were not the first time he has publicly pressured Manchin, who represents West Virginia, to switch parties after the Democrat announced Sunday that he couldn’t support President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, a key piece of the administration’s domestic agenda.
The Republican senator told The New York Times on Tuesday that “obviously we would love to have him on our team,” and, “I think he’d be more comfortable.”
But Manchin has stood firm in his loyalty to his party. Asked in a wide-ranging interview Monday whether there is still a place for him in the party, he told West Virginia Radio: “Well, I think.”
“I would like to hope that there are still Democrats that feel like I do. … I’m socially – I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate,” he said. “Now, if there’s no Democrats like that, then they’ll have to push me wherever they want me.”
Manchin has been facing criticism from within his party over his announcement Sunday, particularly from the progressive wing of the party, whose members had predicted the move, and some moderate House Democrats, who were essentially hung out to dry after they voted in favor of the bill last month.
For his part, Biden insisted on Tuesday that he and Manchin will “get something done” on the bill, though the senator has indicated that he would not quickly get behind a scaled-back version of the plan, arguing that it should instead go through the committee process before trying to move it through the Senate via the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.
That position foreshadows grim prospects for Biden’s hopes of getting even a narrow plan through Congress.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.