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 McConnellCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe Judd Gregg: The government goes geriatric MORE (R-Ky.) to another term as Senate Majority Leader and promoted Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe Key Senate Republican: Criminal justice reform needs more GOP support Sunday shows preview: Trade talks, Cohen sentencing memo take center stage MORE (R-S.D.) to serve as Senate Republican Whip. 

GOP lawmakers promoted 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.) to serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks Senate panel advances Trump nominees for election agency MORE (R-Mo.) to serve as Policy Committee chairman. Sen Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa’s Ernst will run for reelection in 2020 Grassley open to legislation making it tougher for Trump to impose tariffs on national security grounds Special committee votes down budget reforms 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 CottonCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure Trump ultimatum sparks fears of new arms race GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill MORE (R-Ark.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnCorker: Saudi Crown Prince is ‘out of control’ Corker: Trump governs by using ‘anger’ and ‘hate’ Tennessee New Members 2019 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 YoungOvernight Defense: Dunford expected to finish Joint Chiefs term | House lawmakers pushing for Yemen vote | Pentagon says a few hundred troops leaving border This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight Congress digs in for prolonged Saudi battle 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 CornynCornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight GOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill 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 WickerAlmost half of US residents don't use broadband internet: study Afghanistan war at a stalemate, top general tells lawmakers Grassley open to legislation making it tougher for Trump to impose tariffs on national security grounds 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.