As U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin considers a 2016 return bid for governor, Republicans hope to block West Virginia’s most prominent Democrat from handpicking his Senate successor for two years. Should he reclaim his old job, Manchin will have served enough of his Senate term that the governor — potentially him in 2017 — could name the next senator through 2018. The appointment would guarantee that the Democratic Party holds a crucial seat for at least another two years. After a bruising 2014 election, Manchin is in the Senate minority for the first time in his short tenure. In his state, he’s the last Democrat standing in Congress. Big Republican gains also shook up the statehouse. With majorities in the House and Senate for the first time in more than eight decades, Republicans have the numbers to stymie Manchin’s ability to name a potential replacement.
Republicans already have drafted an election law change requiring special elections, not appointments, in cases like Manchin’s. The change would also clear up a fuzzy area of state law, said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.
For the senator frustrated by Washington, D.C. gridlock, the proposal could further complicate a decision between the Senate and Governor’s Mansion. He plans to pick by spring or summer. Manchin declined to comment on the vacancy process through a spokesman.
“I would not want to see a situation where we have an appointed senator for two years,” Armstead told The Associated Press. “I don’t think that’s true to what the founding fathers intended for the United States Senate.”