WASHINGTON — White House and Republican officials are considering appointing U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to lead the U.S. Department of Energy, according to Bloomberg.
Manchin, who is already running for re-election, was one of the finalists for the position of Energy Secretary before President Donald Trump chose former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in December 2016. Perry was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March. Manchin voted in favor of Perry’s nomination, and introduced him before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in January at Perry’s confirmation hearing.
Recent position shake-ups at the White House may open the position of Department of Energy head. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly left his position at the end of July to become the White House Chief of Staff. Perry could fill the vacancy caused by Kelly’s departure, allowing the opportunity for Manchin to be nominated.
Manchin spokesperson Jonathan Kott told Bloomberg the senator “remains committed” to his current position.
“Senator Manchin has not had any recent conversations with the administration about the Secretary of Energy position,” Kott said.
If Manchin did accept the nomination and was confirmed, it would be up to Gov. Jim Justice to appoint someone to serve the rest of Manchin’s current term, which ends in January 2019. Justice announced on August 3 at a Trump rally in Huntington he would leave the Democratic Party to rejoin the GOP. Justice had been a Republican before becoming a Democrat in 2015.
The governor also said he considers Trump to be “a really dear friend.”
Justice could appoint a Republican to fill the remainder of Manchin’s term, which would give the GOP 53 seats in the Senate and open the opportunity for passing legislation to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The chamber rejected its “skinny repeal” measure last month, with Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voting against the bill. Manchin joined Democrats in voting against the proposal.
Justice sent letters to Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in June thanking them for opposing a previous version of the Senate health care bill. The governor said that bill raised serious concerns about the thousands of West Virginians who have insurance as a result of the state’s Medicaid expansion.
Justice also criticized the West Virginia Legislature in the letters, saying state lawmakers failed to hear his “repeated warnings about slashing the state’s Medicaid budget.”
Manchin is running for re-election in 2018. U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and former coal miner Bo Copley announced their Republican campaigns earlier this year. Activist Paula Jean Swearengin is challenging Manchin for the Democratic nomination.