Triumphant Republicans yesterday elected their leaders for the 108th Congress that will take office in January and vowed to enact much of the legislation that stalled after the Democrats took over the Senate last year.
There were no surprises and few contested elections for the GOP leadership posts whose occupants will guide the national legislative agenda during the next two years. Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.) was reelected Senate Republican leader and will become majority leader when the GOP retakes control of the Senate. In the House, where gains in the Nov. 5 elections will increase the GOP majority, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was reelected GOP leader and will remain speaker in the next Congress.
House Republicans also elected Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.) to be the next majority leader, replacing the retiring Rep. Richard K. Armey (Tex.), and picked Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) to replace DeLay as majority whip. Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio) defeated two male opponents for the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference. She will be one of two women in the GOP leadership in Congress.
DeLay, who is known as "The Hammer" for his tactics, presented a velvet-covered hammer to his successor as whip, Blunt, the most outspoken of the House GOP leaders.
"We have the agenda that, frankly, was set by the Senate Democrats by not passing our agenda," Delay said. "Our agenda has been sitting on Tom Daschle's desk," a reference to Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who will become the Senate minority leader in the next Congress.
DeLay specifically mentioned welfare reform legislation and making permanent the tax cuts that were enacted in 2001, including the repeal of the estate tax.
House Republicans also elected Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.) to head the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.) to be vice chairman of the House Republican Conference and Rep. John T. Doolittle (Calif.) to be secretary of the conference.
In the Senate, Democrats, who had planned to wait until Dec. 3 to elect their leaders, changed their minds and did so yesterday as well, choosing Daschle, who is currently the Senate's majority leader, to serve as minority leader.
None of the votes in the closed-door Senate caucuses was contested. Although there had been some talk of a challenge to Lott, it disappeared amid the euphoria of the party after it won control of the Senate in last week's elections.
In the biggest change in the Senate leadership, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was chosen for the GOP's No. 2 post of party whip. He will succeed Sen. Don Nickles (Okla.), who is term-limited and will take over as chairman of the Budget Committee. Sen. Larry E. Craig (Idaho) had planned to run for the whip post but withdrew and endorsed McConnell after it became clear that McConnell had the votes.
In another change, Sen. George Allen (Va.) was chosen to head the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party's campaign arm. He will succeed Sen. Bill Frist (Tenn.), who did not seek reelection to the post.
Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) was chosen to succeed Craig as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.
Other Senate GOP officials were retained in their positions, including Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) as Republican Conference chairman and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) as vice chairman.
Senate Democrats retained Sen. Harry M. Reid (Nev.) as party whip and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.) as conference secretary.
The chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is an appointive post. Speculation about it has centered on Sen. Jon S. Corzine (N.J.).