Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) on Wednesday appointed three former House Members to an expanded Republican vote-counting team, including newly installed Sens. Roy Blunt and Rob Portman.
Blunt previously served as both House Majority Whip and Minority Whip, while also spending time as the interim Republican Majority Leader prior to the 2006 elections. In addition to his vote counting experience, the Missouri Republican could play the key role of GOP Senate liaison to the House, where he maintains relationships on both sides of the aisle.
Portman is similarly viewed as more experienced than his freshman status suggests. Following his House stint, the Ohio Republican served as U.S. Trade Representative and director of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House under President George W. Bush. Also joining the Republican Whip team for the 112th Congress is Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), another former House Member.
“Rob served in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the previous Administration,” Kyl said in a statement. “Roy is the former House Republican Whip. And Roger has contributed greatly to our efforts over the past two years. Their unparalleled knowledge and command of the issues will be critical in helping to advance the Republican legislative agenda.”
Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), another former House Member who was elected to a second term on Nov. 2, is remaining as Chief Deputy Whip in a GOP Conference that now boasts 47 Members. Additional holdovers on the Whip team include Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and David Vitter (La.).
Leaving to focus on other duties are Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), who recently assumed the post of Conference Vice Chairman, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), who will serve as ranking member on the Budget Committee.
On the Democratic side, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) is not expected to settle on his new team until the Senate returns from a scheduled two-week recess on Jan. 24, according to a Democratic Senate source.