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Cornyn had previously served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Thune had reportedly been considering a challenge to Cornyn for the whip spot.

Prior to serving as Conference chairman, Thune served as vice chairman of the Conference and also was chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. 

Meanwhile, the race to become the next chairman of the NRSC has begun to heat up. Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranProposal to privatize air traffic control struggles to win over critics Senate panel to reject Trump’s air traffic control plan in aviation bill Senate panel readies must-pass aviation bill MORE (R-Kan.) is running for the job and Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanSanders to headline 'Don't Take Our Health Care' bus tour Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ohio) is also considering a bid.