Senate Democrats have elected Chuck Schumer to be their new minority leader when Congress convenes in January, while Senate Republicans have re-elected Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell to be the majority leader.
Schumer will now be Washington’s most powerful Democrat as the party confronts an all-Republican government led by Donald Trump.
Democrats unanimously picked Schumer at a closed-door meeting Wednesday. He will succeed Harry Reid, the combative Nevada Democrat who is retiring in January after 30 years in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Illinois’ Dick Durbin will be the second high-ranking Democrat in the Senate as minority whip and Washington’s Patty Murray will be the assistant leader.
In other changes, Senator Patrick Leahy will be the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and Senator Dianne Feinstein will fill that post on Judiciary as the Senate considers a Supreme Court nominee.
It won’t always be possible for Schumer to keep Senate Democrats together because many will seek re-election in two years from GOP-leaning states.
Schumer told reporters Wednesday that they will work with Donald Trump on issues where they agree but challenge him when values or progress is under assault.
McConnell’s re-election was nearly a foregone conclusion, as he is widely popular among Republicans and his election was by acclimation on Wednesday. The 74-year-old is considered a clever tactician who mixes conservative leanings with a willingness to cut bipartisan deals when necessary.
McConnell was Senate minority leader for eight years before becoming majority leader when the GOP took control in 2015.
He enraged Democrats by refusing to let the Senate consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy last February. That paid dividends when Trump was elected president.
McConnell distanced himself from Trump during the campaign, but says he’s ready to work with him.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.