WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was easily re-elected by acclamation to lead the GOP caucus in the 116th Congress, while Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) will step up to serve as majority whip.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was picked in caucus elections today to serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) will be Policy Committee chairman, Sen Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will be vice chairwoman of the GOP conference, and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) will lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the caucus’ campaign arm.
“We have divided government often in this country. We’ve had divided government more often than not since World War II,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. “So I’ll be talking to Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats about what we can do together. There are a lot of things that we do together already that I know are not terribly newsworthy to most of you, but we think are as important to the country. And we’ll be looking for ways, now that we have divided government again, to make some progress for the country.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said an infrastructure package could be a priority for bipartisan cooperation in the new Congress.
McConnell acknowledged that’s “one thing that almost everybody seems to be interested in,” but “you know what the sticking point is: How do you pay for it?”
“I think I can pretty safely say Republicans are not interested in doing a $900 billion stimulus, which we did at the beginning of the Obama era. In other words, went out and borrowed $900 billion. We’re not interested in doing that,” he said. “So the question is: How are you going to pay for it? And that always becomes very challenging, because there is no, sort of, easy way to pay for infrastructure without impacting an awful lot of Americans.”
In the Dems’ leadership elections, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’s “excited and humbled” to be re-elected by colleagues.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will continue as minority whip, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will still be assistant Democratic leader, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is still chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) continue as conference vice chairs, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will still be chairwoman of the Steering Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) keeps his post as chairman of outreach, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) stays as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) remains conference secretary.
“I love every member of my caucus. I truly do. They’re all great people. Different views, different backgrounds but everyone works hard to see other people’s points of view. And that’s why we have been able to come together, because of the unity,” Schumer told reporters. “The unity in our caucus has been our strength, and it will continue, stronger than ever, in the 116th Congress.”
“When all the votes are counted in Florida, we could be just where we started at the beginning of the 115th Congress, with 48 members, even facing the worst map that we’ve ever had,” he added.
Schumer said Senate Dems “will be relentless” championing bills passed by a Dem majority in the House “here in the Senate in pressuring Senator McConnell and Republicans in the Senate to put them on the floor or pay the consequences.”
“As long as Trump doesn’t interfere, we can move the government forward,” he said.