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GOP Makes Play to Entice New WV Senator to Switch Parties

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

The Democratic Party may have secured victory over the GOP in the West Virginia Senate race on election night, but the Republicans are still vying for influence over the seat and its vote.

According to news reports out of Washington, Republicans on Capitol Hill think the new Senator-elect may have more in common with their side and are making some lofty promises to try to lure Joe Manchin to cross the aisle.

Negotiations so far have reportedly guaranteed Gov. Manchin his pick of committee assignments -- likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- and possible GOP support for one of Manchin's "pet projects" -- the $1 billion construction of a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel. Fox News reports:

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 Independent 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."

A planned lame-duck vote on the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act next week willy likely shed some light on where Manchin's loyalties lie.

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.
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