Senate Republicans begin to chart post-McConnell future – Washington Examiner

Senate Republicans gathered on Wednesday to begin setting up the process to elect Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) replacement.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and nine of his conservative colleagues requested the meeting “to develop a mission statement, goals for the Conference, and a process to elect a new Senate Republican Leader” in a letter late last month to Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY).

The meeting didn’t end with a mission statement being drafted, though the idea was considered, two senators who participated in the meeting told the Washington Examiner. Members across the conservative ideological spectrum described the meeting positively, saying individual senators shared ideas about what they’d like to see for the conference. 

Prioritizing deficit reduction, ways to change the appropriations process, and protecting the filibuster were among the topics discussed. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the two members running for McConnell’s position, listened rather than weighing in on the discussion, three senators in the room said.

“It was room temperature; never got too hot, never got too cold,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told the Washington Examiner of the meeting. “It was just a good discussion looking forward. So I really credit the colleagues who called the conference for the very genuine talk.”

“I thought it was really instructive. I thought it was helpful. It was civil,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said. “I think it really demonstrated the gift that Mitch McConnell has given us with these seven months to actually plan out the process and for people to just talk.”

McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader of all time, announced last month that this Congress would be his last as head of the GOP conference. Members have been announcing their intentions to seek new leadership positions in November ever since.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) are currently the only two in the running for McConnell’s role, though Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has publicly expressed interest in throwing his hat in the ring. 


Barrasso, whose conference chairmanship makes him the No. 3 Senate Republican, is seeking Thune’s role. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) will compete for Barrasso’s role. Ernst currently chairs the Senate GOP Policy Committee, making her the No. 4 in the conference. 

News of Ernst’s decision to run for conference chair prompted Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who serves as vice chairwoman of the conference, to launch a bid for her position leading the policy committee. That led Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) to announce his intention to run for Capito’s position as the No. 5 Senate Republican.