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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) to another term as Senate Majority Leader and promoted Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders McConnell says Trump is not a racist, but calls for better rhetoric MORE (R-S.D.) to serve as Senate Republican Whip. 

GOP lawmakers promoted Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoHouse passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' GOP senator: US should 'reevaluate' long-term relationship with Saudis Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.) to serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R-Mo.) to serve as Policy Committee chairman. Sen Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout House Dems, Senate GOP build money edge to protect majorities 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 CottonLawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Five things to know about Iran's breaches of the nuclear deal Hillicon Valley: Trump gets pushback after reversing course on Huawei | China installing surveillance apps on visitors' phones | Internet provider Cloudflare suffers outage | Consumer groups look to stop Facebook cryptocurrency MORE (R-Ark.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSocial media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings 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 YoungRepublicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia 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 CornynTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders 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 WickerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand FAA nominee advances to full Senate vote Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown 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.