McConnell appoints Ayotte as counsel

January 3, 2013

Sen.  Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

She's the newest member of the Senate's "Three Amigos," and now she has the ear of the Republican leader.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has asked Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to serve as one of his two "counsels," or senators with no formal leadership title who advise on him on matters of the Senate.

In a statement, McConnell said Ayotte "brings invaluable insight to our conference on issues that affect American families. Firmly committed to getting our fiscal house in order, she will perform a critical role as a member of the Senate Republican Leadership team."

Former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who Ayotte succeeded two years ago, once held the job as counsel. McConnell's other counsel is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

One thing Ayotte and Corker share: air time. Both are frequent guests on television talk shows and part of an emerging crop of younger, media-savvy GOP lawmakers.

In the Republican leadership ranks, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) is the new second-ranking Senate Republican, succeeding retired Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) are the third- and fourth-ranking Republican senators, respectively.

Ayotte has also struck up a friendship with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who along with former senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) were often dubbed the "three amigos" for their frequent globe-trotting and general agreement on foreign policy. With Lieberman's departure, he deemed Ayotte as his capable — and more attractive — successor in the trio.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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