Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership

Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Liberal super PAC launches ads targeting vulnerable GOP senators over SCOTUS fight Romney backs pre-election Supreme Court vote, paving way for McConnell, Trump 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 FischerHillicon Valley: Election officials prepare for new Russian interference battle | 'Markeyverse' of online fans helps take down a Kennedy | GOP senators unveil bill to update tech liability protections Google, Apple, eBay to meet virtually with lawmakers for tech group's annual fly-in Congress botched the CFPB's leadership — here's how to fix it 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 ThuneSenate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Romney backs pre-election Supreme Court vote, paving way for McConnell, Trump Senate GOP faces pivotal moment on pick for Supreme Court MORE (R-S.D.) was elected as majority whip, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoGOP senator attacks Biden: 'I'm not sure what he recalls' Oil and gas is a partner — not an adversary — in meeting our economic and environmental goals Murkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election MORE (R-Wyo.) was elected as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSocial media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Senate GOP faces pivotal moment on pick for Supreme Court This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda 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 MurkowskiSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Pence defends Trump's 'obligation' to nominate new Supreme Court justice 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 CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure MORE (R-W.Va.) already serve as informal counselors on McConnell’s leadership team. 

Senate Republicans also came under scrutiny during Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughOvernight Health Care: US coronavirus deaths hit 200,000 | Ginsburg's death puts future of ObamaCare at risk | Federal panel delays vote on initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Trump says he'll make Supreme Court pick on Saturday 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.