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 McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE (R-Ky.) to another term as Senate Majority Leader and promoted Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats press for action on election security Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Trump, lawmakers consider app that would conduct background checks: report MORE (R-S.D.) to serve as Senate Republican Whip. 

GOP lawmakers promoted Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (R-Wyo.) to serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.) to serve as Policy Committee chairman. Sen Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections 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 Cotton2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration Meadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes MORE (R-Ark.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe evolution of Taylor Swift's political activism Kellyanne Conway responds to Taylor Swift criticism by invoking pop star's lyrics Is there internet life after thirty? 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 YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess 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 CornynDemocrats press for action on election security On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms 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 Wicker The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Suburban anxiety drives GOP on guns 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.