President-elect Donald Trump is meeting and considering red state Democrats for Cabinet positions as he seeks to bridge the partisan gap after a bitter and divisive election.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who is reportedly under consideration for Energy and Interior secretary, met with Trump on Friday. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) is reportedly being considered for the top energy post as well.
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Both Democratic senators hail from states Trump handily carried in the election, and both face tough reelection races in 2018. Since Trump’s victory, they’ve been vocal about their willingness to work with the president-elect.
Nominating Heitkamp, in particular, could give boost to Trump’s agenda, as there would be a strong chance of a Republican replacing her in the Senate, adding to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) slim majority.
On Friday’s transition call, Trump spokesman Jason Miller wouldn’t confirm if either senator is being discussed for a potential administration role, calling it “too premature.”
“But obviously Sens. Heitkamp and Manchin are both very highly respected political leaders who have a lot to contribute to the national conversation and how we move our country forward,” he said.
Heitkamp has remained mum whether she’s being considered for a job. On Thursday, she reiterated her desire to work with Trump in “whatever job I do” and told reporters that the meeting presented an opportunity to discuss their “completely different life story” and talk about issues near to her heart like agriculture and energy.
Following the meeting, she quickly left Trump Tower without taking questions from reporters, according to the pool report. Heitkamp later said in a statement that they had a “thoughtful and wide ranging discussion” but made no mention about a potential job.
Heitkamp has said she wants to work with Trump on “clean coal” technologies, something he frequently touted on the campaign trail.
Manchin, a conservative Democrat who was recently tapped for a leadership position, told Politico Thursday that he hasn’t been contacted by Trump’s team and currently has no scheduled meeting in New York City. But he didn’t rule out serving in the administration.
A spokesman recently told The Hill his priorities include rolling back regulations on coal, especially since he serves in a state that’s been hit hard by the decline of the industry.
Trump has also met with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), known for bucking her party. Gabbard has so far not been tapped for an administration role, but transition officials repeatedly note that the president-elect is holding meetings to gain insight and advice from respected lawmakers.
“I think it would send a powerful signal to the American people that they are in fact willing to reach across the aisle to try and get stuff done,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
President-elects have historically tapped members of the opposing-party to Cabinet positions to help smooth over relations after elections.
President Obama intended to include three Republicans in his initial Cabinet: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) as Commerce secretary, though Gregg withdrew his nomination.
President George W. Bush’s cabinet included one Democrat: Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, his first pick for the post. And while President Bill Clinton’s initial Cabinet didn’t include a Republican, he later tapped William Cohen for Defense secretary.
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