Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership

Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenators offer measure naming Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi slaying Trump shock leaves Republicans anxious over 2019 Iowa’s Ernst will run for reelection in 2020 MORE (R-Iowa) has been elected to serve as vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference, becoming the first woman to be elected to a Senate GOP leadership position since 2010. 

Ernst, a veteran of the Iraq War who served a total of 23 years in the military, is considered a rising star among her colleagues. 

She defeated Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle MORE (R-Neb.) in the only contested Senate Republican leadership race after months of quiet campaigning in the conference.

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Senate Republicans saw Ernst as someone who might be a better communicator for the conference on television, while Fischer garnered praise as someone who worked diligently behind the scenes to build relationships with members of GOP leadership. 

Ernst emerged as the winner after Senate Republicans met in the Old Senate Chamber on Wednesday morning to vote on the new leadership team for the 116th Congress. 

McConnell was reelected as Senate majority leader, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — New momentum for privacy legislation | YouTube purges spam videos | Apple plans B Austin campus | Iranian hackers targeted Treasury officials | FEC to let lawmakers use campaign funds for cyber The Year Ahead: Push for privacy bill gains new momentum On The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump MORE (R-S.D.) was elected as majority whip, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda White House jumps into fight over energy subsidies Clock ticks down on GOP Congress MORE (R-Wyo.) was elected as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDems to reframe gun violence as public health issue Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill The Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington MORE (R-Mo.) was elected as Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman. 

Ernst burst onto the national scene in 2014 with an ad recounting her upbringing on a farm where she castrated hogs and pledging that she would “make ‘em squeal” in Washington by cutting pork. 

Senate Republicans say McConnell has been eager to add a woman to his elected leadership team after he came under criticism in 2017 for not appointing a woman to a special health-care working group he created. 

A woman has not served as a member of the elected Senate GOP leadership since 2010, when Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHouse funding bill scraps Arctic icebreaker program Senate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC MORE (R-Alaska) stepped down as vice chairwoman of the GOP conference after losing her primary race to conservative challenger Joe Miller.  

Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) served as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee from 2007 to 2009, the highest-ranking position a woman has held in the Senate GOP leadership since Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) chaired the Senate Republican Conference in the early 1970s. 

Fischer and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTrump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming House passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates Dole salute embodies emotion of Bush farewell MORE (R-W.Va.) already serve as informal counselors on McConnell’s leadership team. 

Senate Republicans also came under scrutiny during Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughChief justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation Doug Jones: Carmakers 'scared to death' over Trump tariffs McCaskill: 'Kavanaugh spectacle' made the difference in midterm loss MORE's Supreme Court confirmation hearings over the all-male GOP membership of the Judiciary Committee.  

McConnell says one of his priorities is to recruit more women to the Judiciary panel.