iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Senators on both sides of the aisle elected their leadership Wednesday morning, with Republicans consolidating power in the aftermath of last week’s general election win and Democrats attempting to reconfigure their party for the future.
The GOP re-elected Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as majority leader, a position he has held since the party took back the majority in January 2015. He had served as Senate minority leader for eight years prior.
McConnell led Republican efforts in recent months to delay the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, a move that could pay off for the party after the presidential election of Republican Donald Trump.
McConnell, who is popular within the party, did not face serious opposition. In August, however, he contemplated the possibility of running for the position of minority leader, calling the Republicans’ chances of retaining the Senate “very dicey.”
Republicans held control of the Senate by a 51-48 margin last week, buoyed by Donald Trump’s victory. A December runoff election in Louisiana will decide the final seat.
On the Democratic side, in a widely expected move, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York was chosen to be the next Senate minority leader, succeeding retiring Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.
In a statement that noted he was “humbled and honored” by the position, and pointing out the diversity of the Democratic Senate class, Schumer said the party was ready to work with Trump but also “go toe-to-toe against the president-elect whenever our values or the progress we’ve made is under assault.”
In addition to Schumer’s election, Democrats re-elected Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois as the minority whip, the party’s number-two position in the Senate.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who represent the progressive wing of the party, both received positions for the 115th Congress. Warren was named a vice chairwoman of the conference and Sanders the chairman of outreach. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and challenged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination.
Separately, House Republicans held a closed-door vote Tuesday in which they re-nominated Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for speaker of the House. House Democrats delayed their vote until after the Thanksgiving holiday.
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