GOP Senators re-elect leaders

GOP Senators re-elect leaders

In a marked-but expected-contrast to their colleagues in the House, Senate Republicans today re-elected their entire leadership team for the 106th Congress.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the only member of the Senate leadership to be challenged for re- election, handily defeated Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska by 39-13. Hagel has criticized McConnell not only for failing to add to the Republicans' 55 Senate seats, but for the tenor of the NRSC- funded campaigns.

While McConnell was virtually guaranteed a second term by the support of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., Majority Whip Don Nickles, R-Okla.-who often takes a more conservative line than Lott-was sympathetic to Hagel's bid.

Hagel was nominated by Agriculture Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and seconded by Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Rod Grams of Minnesota. Hagel said he was not surprised by the result, noting, "When you've got the leader working against you and a lot of people working against you, it makes a difference."

Still, Hagel said even those who did not vote for him "said they thought what I did was important to the process. I think most of my colleagues agree with me; that doesn't necessarily translate into votes."

Addressing reporters after the elections, Lott said Senate Republicans will focus on getting their budget and appropriations work completed early next year, after this year's failure to pass a budget resolution and many individual spending bills left Republicans vulnerable to White House veto threats. Lott also pledged to "keep the door open to cooperation with both the administration and our Democratic colleagues," as well as with the House GOP leadership and the nation's governors.

The majority leader noted he has met already this week with Senate Minority Leader Daschle and House Speaker-designate Livingston, and that Republican congressional leaders and GOP governors plan to meet Friday to develop a common agenda.

Lott attributed the party's disappointing election results to a failure to communicate the GOP agenda, saying, "We've got to do a better job. I've got to do a better job. And we're committed to doing that."

Other issues besides annual spending that Senate Republicans want to address include education, drug and crime prevention and Social Security, along with the topic of budget process reform.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats today expanded their leadership to 11 positions-meaning 20 percent of the caucus can claim to hold a leadership position.

Daschle and Conference Secretary Barbara Mikulski of Maryland were re-elected and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada was elected without opposition to replace retiring Minority Whip Wendell H. Ford, D-Ky.

The remaining positions were appointed by Daschle: Chief Deputy Minority Whip John Breaux of Louisiana, who will continue to serve as liaison to the White House; Assistant Floor Leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, a new position; Deputy Conference Vice Chairman Bob Kerrey, a new position; Democratic Policy Committee Co-Chairman Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who takes over from Reid; Steering and Coordination Committee Chairman John Kerry of Massachusetts; and Technology and Communication Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.