McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip

Senate Republicans on Wednesday reelected Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to another term as Senate Majority Leader and promoted Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to serve as Senate Republican Whip. 

GOP lawmakers promoted Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to serve as Policy Committee chairman. Sen Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was elected vice chairwoman of the GOP conference.

{mosads}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 Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marsha Blackburn (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 Young (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 Cornyn (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 Wicker (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. 

Tags John Barrasso John Cornyn John Thune Joni Ernst Marsha Blackburn Mitch McConnell Republican leadership Roger Wicker Roy Blunt Senate Todd Young Tom Cotton

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