Mitch McConnell Tries to Lure Joe Manchin to GOP to Become Majority Leader Once More

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) would be welcome in the Republican Party following his announcement that he's a "no" on the Build Back Better Act.

While criticizing the "vitriol" directed at Manchin by some in the Democratic Party, McConnell suggested the West Virginia senator could find a new home in the GOP.

McConnell's comments are significant at a time when Manchin is at odds with President Joe Biden and the Democrats and while the Senate is evenly divided between the parties.

The Kentucky Republican told Fox News' The Guy Benson Show on Tuesday that Manchin had done the country a "favor" by apparently killing the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act.

Manchin told Fox News Sunday that he was a "no" on the bill after months of negotiations and conflict between moderate and progressive Democrats.

Though a final vote hasn't taken place, without Manchin's support Build Back Better will likely fail to pass.

McConnell said he was "shocked at the vitriol" aimed at Manchin. The White House issued a strong statement about Manchin's Fox News appearance, suggesting he had gone back on his word.

"Basically it seemed to me that they were calling Senator Manchin a liar. I think that was not smart. This is a 50/50 Senate. It's going to be 50/50 for another year, and believe me, this is not how I would handle a disappointing vote like that," McConnell said.

"He doesn't fit well over there, but that is a decision ultimately that he has to make. We certainly welcome him to join us if he was so inclined," he said.

The Senate is currently made up of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. If Manchin were to change parties, it would alter the balance of power and give the GOP enough seats to make McConnell Senate Majority Leader again. He previously served in that position from January in 2015 to January in 2021.

McConnell isn't alone in calling on Manchin to switch parties, with at least four other GOP senators including Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas publicly discussing the possibility in recent comments.

While Manchin changing party would have huge national significance, the senator has long resisted suggestions that he should join the Republicans despite factors that appear to point in that direction.

He is considered a moderate or conservative Democrat and represents a state that has been solidly Republican in presidential elections since 2000. Nonetheless, in October he dismissed rumors that he was considering leaving the Democratic Party because of the price tag of the Build Back Better Act.

"It's bulls**t," Manchin told CNN's Manu Raju at the time. "I have no control of rumors."

Manchin also told CNN's Ali Zaslav that he had thought about becoming an independent who caucuses with Democrats, like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but he had never considered switching to the GOP.

On Monday, Manchin appeared to address his future in the Democratic Party.

"I would like to hope there are still Democrats who think like I do. I'm fiscally responsible and socially compassionate. Now, if there are no Democrats like that, then they'll have to push me where they want me," he said.

Republican attempts to lure Manchin to their side of the aisle may not succeed, but could still be a cause of concern for Democrats as they struggle to maintain a precarious majority and pass President Biden's agenda.

Composite Image Shows McConnell and Manchin
A composite photo shows Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Joe Manchin. McConnell has suggested Manchin could leave the Democratic Party and become a Republican. Getty Images