Senate Republicans Schedule Leadership Elections
Start of lame duck session will also set slate of leaders for 116th Congress
Win, lose or draw on Election Day, the Senate Republican Conference has formally scheduled leadership elections for the 116th Congress for the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the only member of the Republican leadership not facing a conference-imposed term limit on his role. Barring something unforeseen, the Kentuckian is set to lead his conference for the fifth consecutive congress. The 76 year-old McConnell became the longest serving leader of the Republican Conference in June — he was minority leader from 2007 to 2015.
Whatever the election results on Nov. 6, McConnell can boast of two confirmed Supreme Court justices under President Donald Trump, 29 appellate judges and dozens of district judges in the last two years.
He also shepherded an overhaul of the tax code. His sole flop was falling short, by one vote, of repealing the 2010 health care law.
Meanwhile, the odd man out will be Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, whose term as whip expires at the end of the year and is subject to term limits.
Sliding into the whip’s role is expected to be Sen. John Thune. The South Dakota Republican, who has been serving as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference as well as the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, will take an even more prominent role in both the messaging and policy operations.
Thune was re-elected in 2016, the year that Trump overwhelmingly carried his state. He first arrived in the Senate back in 2005 as something of a Republican hero, having unseated Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in the 2004 election.
Also moving up is Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming senator who has been overseeing the Republican Policy Committee, which produces policy briefs and research for GOP offices. He has also played a key policy messaging role, particularly on Republican opposition to the 2010 health care overhaul and their many ill-fated repeal efforts, as well as regulatory policy through his chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Barrasso was elected to the Wyoming Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2007, after Republican Craig Thomas died.