McConnell, Schumer to remain Senate leaders

Leadership elections were held even though the Senate majority has not been decided

Congressional leaders gather at a memorial in the Capitol for the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings on Oct. 24, 2019. Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Charles E. Schumer were reelected by their conferences to lead their respective parties in the Senate. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Pool file photo)
Congressional leaders gather at a memorial in the Capitol for the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings on Oct. 24, 2019. Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Charles E. Schumer were reelected by their conferences to lead their respective parties in the Senate. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Pool file photo)
Posted November 10, 2020 at 11:37am

Corrected, 2:23 p.m. | Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York were reelected Tuesday to lead their parties in the Senate during the next Congress.

The leadership elections, which occurred behind closed doors Tuesday morning, were held even though it’s still unclear which party will hold the Senate majority.

Races called in last week’s election have the chamber currently deadlocked at 48-48, and control could depend on a double runoff in Georgia for seats held by GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Republican incumbents Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are leading in the two other uncalled races.

[Trump support still key in Georgia Senate runoffs]

McConnell, the only member of GOP leadership who doesn’t face conference-imposed term limits, is already the longest-serving Senate Republican leader as he enters his eighth term.

The vote to reelect the Kentucky Republican as leader was unanimous.

McConnell was nominated by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who praised the leader, saying no one “has done more than Mitch to play the long game.” Cotton also poked fun at some of the nicknames McConnell’s received over the years, according to his prepared remarks.

“A few weeks ago, someone called him the apex predator of American politics, which may be the best yet,” Cotton said. “I nominate as our leader, the apex predator of the United States Senate, Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr.”

McConnell served as Senate minority leader from 2007 until he took over as majority leader in 2015.

The other members of the Senate GOP leadership teams kept their jobs too.

John Thune of South Dakota was again chosen as Republican whip, and Wyoming’s John Barrasso was tapped for another term as GOP conference chairman.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri will continue as GOP Policy Committee chairman, and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst was reelected as conference vice chair.

Florida’s Rick Scott was selected to lead the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm for the 2022 election cycle.

In his tenure as majority leader over what seemed like a coronavirus-dominated 116th Congress, McConnell helped guide his conference through the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and helped get several pandemic aid packages passed quickly by large margins.

Since then, however, agreement on new COVID-19 aid has been hard to come by. And the majority leader was largely absent during the talks between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House negotiators, though he said he was kept up to date on the discussions.

Though not much substantive legislation has passed since the summer, McConnell was able to get a third Trump-picked Supreme Court justice confirmed, as well as dozens of appeals and district court judges.

Democrats, meanwhile, elected their full leadership team by acclamation Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide.

Richard J. Durbin was reelected as whip a week after winning a fifth term in Illinois. Patty Murray of Washington was once again picked to be the Democrats’ assistant leader.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was reelected to lead the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Several new faces were also added to the Democratic leadership team.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey joins as vice chair of the DPCC, and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the outgoing chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was added as vice chair of outreach.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the term Mitch McConnell was elected to as leader of the Senate Republican Conference. It will be his eighth term as leader.