Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced Tuesday that he plans to run for the position of vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, becoming the first member of the 2010 freshman class to make a bid for his party’s No. 5 ranking position in the chamber.
The move by Johnson, a former businessman who ousted incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) last November, comes hours after Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) set off a leadership shuffle with his announcement that he plans to resign from his spot as the Senate’s No. 3 Republican early next year.
“I came to Washington because I believe that business as usual is bankrupting America, and it has to stop,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Every day I ask myself ‘what can I do to be effective – to have an impact?’ The position of Vice-Chair of the Republican Conference would be an important opportunity to address our fiscal crisis. As Vice-Chair, I would seek to communicate how urgent the problem is and work with the Republican Conference to develop real solutions.”
Johnson is considered to be among the rising stars in the Senate Republican freshman class, which also includes such high-profile members as Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.). No other freshmen have yet announced any intentions to run for leadership.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the top-ranking Republican in the chamber. The No. 2 Senate Republican, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), plans to retire in 2013, and Alexander – who as Republican Conference Chairman is the third-ranking member of his party in the chamber – will leave a vacancy as of next January.
That sets in motion a leadership scramble that could see the No. 4 Senate Republican, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), rise to the third-ranking spot after the departures of Kyl and Alexander. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is expected to run for the No. 2 spot.
Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the current vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, would then be next in line for the No. 4 spot of conference chairman.