Senate Republicans Add New Blood

Posted November 18, 2008 at 12:08pm

Newly elected National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Tuesday he hopes to build a more competitive fundraising and candidate recruitment program in the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm next cycle, arguing those areas will be key to the GOP’s future success.

“The fact of the matter is that Republicans have not been particularly competitive in fundraising,” Cornyn said, following a closed-door GOP Conference meeting where his colleagues elected him as the next chairman of the NRSC.

Cornyn also said Republicans have had difficulty identifying and recruiting “good candidates” in recent cycles, which has helped Democrats take control of and expand their hold on the chamber.

During their meeting, Senate Republicans unanimously retained much of their leadership lineup, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) remaining in their slots. Sen John Ensign (Nev.), who headed up the NRSC during the 2008 cycle, was chosen as Policy Committee chairman, and Sen. John Thune (S.D.) was tapped to take over as Conference vice chairman.

Republicans did not, however, take any action on a proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) to expel Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) from the Conference. The move would serve as retaliation against Stevens for his seven-count felony conviction last month. DeMint earlier in the day Tuesday put off the vote until the results of Stevens’ re-election are known.

The GOP did, however, soundly defeat a set of rules changes DeMint had offered that would have limited the tenure of party leaders as well as eliminate the Conference’s use of seniority to determine committee assignments and chairmanships. DeMint also sought to place term limits on Members serving on the Appropriations Committee. DeMint’s leadership proposals were defeated by a vote of 36-5, while the Appropriations limits were killed 36-4.

Republican Senate leaders sought to put a positive spin on the temperature of the Conference on the heels of the second consecutive electoral defeat this November. McConnell characterized the mood as “looking forward” and said Republicans are “excited about getting back” to work in the chamber.

But McConnell, Alexander and others did acknowledge the party will need to begin the process of self-evaluating and rethinking how it pushes its conservative ideals. “We know exactly what we need to do .. we need to turn the principles we believe in into solutions that effect the average American,” Alexander said.