Mitch McConnell strategizing to expand GOP's Senate majority

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly been discussing the possibility that Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp might be joining the Trump administration, leaving an open seat which McConnell hopes would be filled by North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer.

McConnell met with Cramer on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of running in a special election for Heitkamp’s seat if she takes the job as either Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture or his Secretary of Energy. Heitkamp met with Trump last week.

Trump also plans to meet with Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to discuss the Secretary of Energy post. Manchin has been threatening to shut down the government over the weekend in an attempt to extend health benefits to coal miners. So the possibility of being in charge of U.S. energy policy might appeal to him.

Politically, accepting the administration jobs might be a smart move for both Manchin and Heitkamp. Both Senators are running for reelection in 2018 in red states that Trump won easily, meaning they could lose their seats anyway if they reject Trump’s offer. From the Hill:

If Heitkamp isn’t asked to join the Trump Cabinet, it’s likely Cramer would challenge her in 2018, he has told friends and colleagues. Heitkamp’s shown an independent streak and is popular in North Dakota, but she’d face a difficult race: Trump crushed Hillary Clinton (D) in the state, 64 to 28 percent.

All of this is obviously aimed at increasing the size of the Republican’s majority in the Senate. Mitch McConnell has been in contact with the Trump transition team according to a source who spoke with the Hill:

“There’s some collaboration” between McConnell and the presidential transition team, said one GOP source familiar with the Tuesday meeting. “His message was 52 is a good number, but 53 or 54 is a lot better number. And the sooner the better.
“He is a very shrewd son of a bitch.”

That collaboration was denied by Rep. Cramer who told Politico, “But as far as I know there is no truth to the rumor that Mitch McConnell is engineering the whole thing — there really isn’t.”