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Senate Republicans Reward Leadership With Another Term

The Senate Republican leadership team was unanimously re-elected Tuesday, although additions to the Whip operation are likely to occur in January to account for the growth in the Conference, Chief Deputy Minority Whip Richard Burr (N.C.) said.

Burr described the enhancement of Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) team as “maybe one or two additions, just simply because of the number of Members.” Republicans gained six seats on Nov. 2 and will number 47 when the 112th Congress convenes next year.

Sen. John Barrasso, recently elected to replace Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as Conference vice chairman, is set to leave the Whip team, but Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and David Vitter (La.) could remain. A GOP source said an announcement on the additions is not likely until early January.

Following the Republican infighting that characterized the 2010 election cycle, there was some speculation that the incoming class of freshmen might clash with the Conference leadership. But during Tuesday’s leadership elections, all the incoming Republicans supported Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and the rest of the leadership team for another term.

Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who backed several tea party candidates over GOP establishment picks this cycle, said Senate Republicans seem to be united on most issues. DeMint is pushing a Conference-wide earmark reform measure that Republicans are expected to approve later Tuesday.

“We’ve got a good leadership team, and I think all of the new Members want to be a part of a unified Conference,” said DeMint, who during the primary election was publicly critical of some of the Senate candidates endorsed by GOP leaders. “There’s a real sense of responding to voters. We’re going to listen to what they said — and so I just think there’s a unity around the ideas.”

In addition to McConnell and Kyl being re-elected to the posts of Leader and Whip, respectively, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) was re-elected Conference chairman, Sen. John Thune (S.D.) was re-elected Policy Committee chairman, Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) was re-elected Conference vice chairman, and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) was re-elected National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman.

“For the last several months, we have tried as best we could, as leaders of the Republican Conference, to reflect the will of the American people,” Kyl told reporters. “I think our colleagues have expressed confidence in the leadership team by returning all of us to the positions in which we previously served.”

“I think the tone of the meeting we just had was one of a team that together has heard what the American people have to say and want in every way we can to translate that into legislative achievements,” Kyl added.