McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip

McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip

Senate Republicans on Wednesday reelected Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring MORE (R-Ky.) to another term as Senate Majority Leader and promoted Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet MORE (R-S.D.) to serve as Senate Republican Whip. 

GOP lawmakers promoted Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (R-Wyo.) to serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE (R-Mo.) to serve as Policy Committee chairman. Sen Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Abrams: Schumer has been 'relentless but thoughtful' about Senate bid MORE (R-Iowa) was elected vice chairwoman of the GOP conference.

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Thune, Barrasso and Blunt each moved a step up the leadership ladder as Senate Republicans held their leadership election Wednesday morning in the Old Senate Chamber. McConnell was re-elected by acclamation.

Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal GOP senators introduce bill to reduce legal immigration  MORE (R-Ark.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnConservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R-Tenn.) delivered speeches supporting McConnell’s reelection as Leader. 

The results were expected as none of the top four Senate Republican leadership positions were contested.

The Senate GOP conference also elected freshman Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Senate GOP proposes constitutional amendment to keep Supreme Court at 9 seats MORE (R-Ind.) to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

The biggest move is Thune’s promotion to the whip’s job, which positions him to run for Senate Republican leader in the future. 

The current whip, Sen. John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (R-Texas), is required to step down at the end of the year because of term limits in the conference rules that cap the tenures of all members of the elected leadership except for the Senate Majority or Minority Leader. 

Thune has long been considered one of the brightest stars of the Senate GOP conference. 

He became a hero to conservatives in 2004 when he defeated then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the first time in 52 years a sitting Senate leader lost his re-election. 

He ran for re-election unopposed in 2010, becoming only the third Senate Republican to do so since direct Senate elections were created in 1913.

He previously served three terms in the House. 

Thune has served as chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee since 2015 and the top-ranking Republican of that panel since 2013. 

Senate GOP conference rules require that he step down as chairman of Commerce after taking the whip’s job, which paves the way for Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's Senate panel opens investigation of FAA safety inspectors FAA faces questions about Boeing at two hearings MORE (R-Miss.) to take the gavel for that committee. 

But McConnell is not expected to retire from the top leadership position anytime soon and he told reporters last week that he plans to run for re-election in 2020. 

Cornyn is expected to serve as a counselor to McConnell’s leadership team in the next Congress so he can continue to participate in leadership strategy meetings.