Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lawmakers elect leaders; Pelosi to stay on

WASHINGTON — Congressional partisans elected new leaders Wednesday, with Senate Democrats and Senate and House Republicans choosing essentially the same people with the same message, though a toned-down Republican team sounded willing to deal with Democrats after their presidential electoral defeat.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was elected minority whip, the second most powerful GOP slot, despite a poor showing as the party's campaign chief.

And House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, announced she would run for leader again. House Democrats will vote Nov. 29.

"The American people have spoken," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. And to the GOP, which saw Democratic President Barack Obama re-elected last week, that means a return to a divided government, but one that McConnell said would follow the example of Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill in the 1980s and "be productive."

"Divided government has frequently done big things for this country," McConnell said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was re-elected without opposition to a larger caucus that gained two seats in the coming term. In a photo opportunity, he reveled in the new Democratic members, who, along with two independents, give the Democrats a more solid 55-45 majority in the new Congress.

Reid said the Senate priorities were what Obama "outlined in the campaign: Protect the middle class and small business." To do that, Reid wants to change Senate rules to make it easier to get around procedural hurdles such as the filibuster, a favorite tool of the minority. Democrats also re-elected Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois to be majority whip, Charles Schumer of New York to be vice chairman of the conference and Patty Murray of Washington state to be conference secretary.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ran unopposed to lead his party for another term. But there was a surprising battle for Republican conference chairman between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Washington state, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price. The contest pitted a new, younger, more diverse vision of the party with McMorris Rodgers against a more traditional, conservative view. She won.

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