WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump met with six senators, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Thursday to discuss the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy announced Wednesday he is retiring from the court at the end of July. He has served on the high court since February 1988, at times being a conservative swing vote.
“I appreciate @realDonaldTrump inviting me to the White House tonight,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said on Twitter. “We had a productive conversation about how we can work together to move #WV and our county forward. I look forward to more positive meetings.”
Manchin spokesperson Jonathan Kott said the discussion also touched on other issues, but he did not specify what additional matters were mentioned between Manchin and Trump.
“He said a wide range of issues,” Kott said.
The meeting is another chapter in the relationship between the president and West Virginia’s senior senator. Manchin, considered at times for spots on Trump’s cabinet, voted last year against attempts to change the federal health care law as well as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Manchin has voted in line with Trump’s agenda 60.8 percent of the time, the highest rating among Democratic senators.
Trump criticized Manchin in a New York Times interview in December — saying he “doesn’t do anything” — and during an April roundtable discussion in White Sulphur Springs for not voting in favor of the tax bill.
“If you look at your senator, he voted against — Joe — you voted against,” Trump said of Manchin’s tax bill vote. “It was bad. I thought he would be helpful because he talks — grabs me, I grab him, he says hello, I say hello, —but he votes against everything and he voted against our tax cuts.”
Manchin told MetroNews earlier this month he wants to work with the president.
“Every red-blooded American — no matter who your president is, no matter who he or she may be, no matter what political party, no matter if you disagree — you should try to do everything you can to make them successful,” he said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Thursday evening Trump also met with Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota about the opening on the court.
Political observers see Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp as Democrats who could vote for a conservative justice; all three senators voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in April 2017, the only Democrats to do so.
All three senators are also up for re-election this year.
Manchin said Wednesday senators have a responsibility to consider the president’s nominee for the seat.