With last week’s midterms largely in the rearview mirror, leadership elections are the order of the day on Capitol Hill.
In morning meetings, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) won the votes to keep their posts next year.
House Republicans — who will become the minority party in that chamber in January — picked Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as their leader. He fended off a conservative challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
House Democrats are not picking leaders until later this month but could have the most interesting day of all, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seeks to corral the support she would need to become speaker amid speculation that she lacks the votes.
2:05 p.m.: Cheney selected for No. 3 GOP leadership post in House
Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) was chosen by her Republican colleagues Wednesday to serve as House Republican conference chair, the No. 3 GOP spot in the House.
Cheney, who first won election in 2016, is the daughter of former vice president Richard B. Cheney.
She launched her bid for the post last Wednesday with a letter to colleagues in which she criticized Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who has held the position for three terms. McMorris Rodgers announced the next day that she was stepping aside from her leadership role and instead seeking to climb the ranks of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The elder Cheney, who served as GOP conference chair from 1987 to 1989, was present for Wednesday’s vote for his daughter.
1:55 p.m.: McCarthy elected minority leader; Scalise becomes minority whip
McCarthy ascended to the top job in House Republican leadership Wednesday, turning back a challenge from Jordan, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
McCarthy prevailed 159-43, according to the House press gallery.
With Republicans losing the House last week, the two were vying to become minority leader to replace the retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
The No. 2 spot of House minority whip was claimed by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who serves in the third-ranking role in House GOP leadership. Scalise had mulled a bid against McCarthy but announced last week that he was pursuing the minority whip spot instead.
McCarthy, the current House majority leader, made a bid for speaker in 2015 but stepped aside amid pressure from conservatives. With Ryan’s backing — as well as a close relationship with President Trump — McCarthy prevailed over Jordan.
The California Republican has leveraged his alliance with Trump to his advantage on Capitol Hill, where the president looms large over the House GOP conference.
Trump has referred to McCarthy as “my Kevin” since before his inauguration, and McCarthy has at times gone to great lengths to curry favor with Trump, both through legislation — such as by introducing a bill that would appropriate more than $23 billion to Trump’s border wall plan — and other means, such as sending the president his favorite candies.
1:15 p.m.: Pelosi touts support of NARAL Pro-Choice America
In her bid to become speaker, Pelosi on Wednesday touted the support of a leading abortion rights group, NARAL Pro-Choice America.
In a statement shared by Pelosi’s office, the House minority leader was widely praised by the group’s president, Ilyse Hogue.
“She is a true champion for women and families and will stand up to Donald Trump and the Republicans’ relentless attacks on our rights and freedoms,” Hogue said. “Now more than ever, we need strong leaders who will fight passionately to defend and proactively expand our rights. That’s Nancy Pelosi.”
As Pelosi seeks to round up needed votes, she has run into resistance from some of her female colleagues, particularly those newer to the House.
1:05 p.m.: Ryan says it’s time to talk about a replacement for Pelosi
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi for a leadership position two years ago, said Wednesday that opposition to her speakership bid is strong enough for Democrats to start talking about who is going to replace her.
“There’s a lot of talent out there. A lot of them don’t want to step forward,” Ryan said, referring to other potential candidates for House speaker. “This is obviously not an easy thing to do to take on the leadership. But once we get to the point we know we’re going to have new leadership, I think a lot of people will emerge to run.”
12:45 p.m.: House Democrats offer varying rationales on speaker vote
House Democrats are offering divergent views about whether Pelosi is best-suited to take over the speaker’s gavel when the party takes control of the chamber in January.
Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif) argued that denying the job to a woman would be problematic.
“I think the fact that we have won the House majority because of women candidates with huge women turnout, to then deny the first woman speaker who led us to that victory the gavel, I think would be a slap in the face of a lot of voters who sent us here,” Khanna said.
Meanwhile, Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) said she plans to stick by a promise made to voters in her district not to support Pelosi for speaker.
“I made a commitment to my district that I would not be supporting Nancy Pelosi,” Sherrill said. “I think there are some great people that will be coming forward, and I’m excited to see who those people might be. They haven’t identified themselves yet, but we have such a deep bench of talent in the Democratic Party. So I’m excited to see what comes next.”
11:55 a.m.: Pelosi touts growing labor union support
In her bid to become House speaker, Pelosi on Wednesday highlighted a growing number of endorsements from labor groups, including the Service Employees International Union, which spent heavily to help elect Democrats to Congress this year.
Pelosi’s office released a letter from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry saying the minority leader had demonstrated her support for the union’s key issues, including increasing the minimum wage and improving Medicare and Medicaid.
Pelosi on Wednesday also won the support of the United Steelworkers, which issued a statement praising “her proven track record of getting things done.”
Separately, Pelosi released a letter from 11 other unions that are endorsing her speakership bid. Six of those were new endorsements: the Air Line Pilots Association, American Federation of Government Employees, United Auto Workers, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, United Food and Commercial Workers and National Association of Letter Carriers.
11:45 a.m.: Ernst prevails in race for GOP’s No. 5 spot in Senate
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) emerged as the winner Wednesday over Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) in the contest for vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
The race for the No. 5 position among Senate Republicans pitted two female lawmakers against one another for a spot in GOP leadership ranks dominated by white men.
McConnell has said he has been seeking to add women to the leadership team for years.
11:15 a.m.: Fudge says she has not ruled out challenging Pelosi for speaker
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) said Wednesday that she is being encouraged to run for speaker if Pelosi does not have the votes.
“I have ruled out nothing,” Fudge told reporters. “But what I’m saying is I haven’t given it any thought. I am getting encouraged. That is what made me start finally thinking about it.”
Fudge said that “it’s clear” she will not support Pelosi for speaker. She said she expects other Democratic candidates to emerge if it becomes likely that Pelosi, the current minority leader, does not have the votes in January.
“Let us just hypothetically say that there are not enough votes for her to win on the floor,” Fudge said. “Someone will emerge, if no one has emerged before that. We’re not going to allow the Republicans to have a speaker.”
11:05 a.m.: Pelosi: “I will be speaker of the House”
Pelosi sought to push back Wednesday on another Democrat’s prediction that she would fall short in her bid to become speaker next year.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a leader of the anti-Pelosi faction, is advancing the idea that Pelosi cannot round up enough support.
“I’m a busy person, but I will be the speaker of the House no matter what he said,” Pelosi told reporters in response.
11 a.m.: Leading Pelosi opponent raises possibility that Pelosi could be speaker if other changes are secured
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a leading opponent of Pelosi’s bid for House speakership, said Wednesday that the now-minority leader could possibly be elected speaker if other changes are made in the ranks of Democratic leadership.
“That’s a possibility,” Perlmutter told reporters. “But there haven’t been any discussions about that, but it’s certainly a possibility.”
Perlmutter did not spell out what changes would be necessary for Pelosi to garner the support of those Democrats opposed to her speakership bid, but there has been talk about asking her to limit her tenure and shaking up the No. 2 and No. 3 Democratic positions in the House.
Some Democrats are also interested in rule changes that would decentralize power in the chamber.
“People want to see change, and I think a lot of these candidates ran on change — and that includes our leadership team, which has been in place for 16 or 17 years now,” Perlmutter said. “People ran saying they were coming to Washington for change, and this was a change election. So that’s the bottom line.”
10:45 a.m.: Thune elected by Republicans as majority whip
Republicans, meeting behind closed doors, selected Sen. John Thune (S.D.) as the majority whip, according to his spokesman.
Thune succeeds Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) in the No. 2 GOP slot. Cornyn was term-limited.
10:30 a.m.: Democrats reelect full leadership slate
Besides maintaining Schumer as minority leader, Senate Democrats also decided Wednesday to keep the rest of their leadership team in place, according to an individual familiar with the proceedings.
That includes Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) as minority whip and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as assistant minority leader, according to the person, who was not authorized to release the results and requested anonymity.
Others retaining leadership positions included Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Mark R. Warner (Va.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.).
10:15 a.m.: Senate Republicans reelect McConnell as their leader
Meeting behind closed doors Wednesday, Senate Republicans decided to keep McConnell as majority leader, according to an individual familiar with the proceedings.
McConnell was elected by acclamation, according to the person, who was not authorized to release the result and requested anonymity.
McConnell led the GOP to victory in the midterm Senate elections, albeit by a narrow margin. Republicans have a 51-47 advantage in the chamber, with races in Florida and Mississippi unresolved.
10:05 a.m.: Senate Democrats reelect Schumer as minority leader
Senate Democrats on Wednesday decided to stick with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as minority leader, according to a person familiar with the proceedings.
Schumer was elected by acclamation during a closed-door meeting of Democrats, according to the person, who was not authorized to release the result and requested anonymity.
Although Democrats fell short in claiming the Senate majority in the midterm elections, Schumer held losses to a minimum despite a brutal political map. Ten Democratic incumbents sought reelection in states President Trump won in 2016. Six won, while one race, Florida, remains unresolved.
10 a.m.: Jordan not giving up without a fight for minority leader
Though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is on track to assume his party’s top leadership post, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is not giving up without a fight.
Inside a closed-door meeting of dejected Republicans Tuesday night, Jordan made the case that he — a combative former champion wrestler who has served on high-profile committees and a fixture on cable news — would be best equipped to spar with Democrats.
“I think we’re entering a world we haven’t really seen,” he said after the meeting, rattling off the names of incoming Democratic leaders. “It’s going to be intense, and I’ve been in that world now for 12 years . . . So I think it’s going to take an attitude and an intensity about standing up for the truth and fighting.”
While Jordan has a base of support on the far right of the Republican conference, McCarthy has developed close relationships across its whole breadth during his 12 years in office — much of it spent on the road, recruiting Republican candidate and raising tens of millions of dollars to elect them. Inside the meeting Tuesday, McCarthy made the case that he was best equipped not only to stand up to Democrats but to get the House back in GOP hands after the 2020 elections.
McCarthy declined to comment Tuesday.
“He’s got a proven record of working hard for everybody, not just one group or another group,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who survived a tough race last week. “He can represent the entire party. He’s done it. It’s not just talk.”
Still, many Republicans are calling for some sort of accountability following the party’s massive losses. While the president’s party has lost about 30 House seats on average in their first midterm election, Republicans are on track to lose closer to 40, with nine races still uncalled. At least four of those losses, and potentially as many as six, were in McCarthy’s home state of California.
9:25 a.m.: Gov. Rick Scott won’t say whether he still considers Florida vote fraudulent
As newly elected Republican senators gathered for photos on Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declined to say whether he still believes the vote count in his state is fraudulent.
Scott’s race for Senate is under recount. Last week, he floated without evidence the possibility of “rampant fraud” in two Democratic-leaning counties in Florida as his lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) narrowed.
9:20 a.m.: Pelosi: “Come on in, the water’s warm”
Pelosi playfully invited challengers to her bid for speaker to step forward Wednesday.
Asked by a reporter what she says to Democrats who are opposing her and may run against her, Pelosi said, “Come on in, the water’s warm.” It’s a phrase she has used on multiple occasions in recent days as she tries to shore up support.
Pelosi spoke ahead of a Democratic caucus meeting that she said would focus on the lame-duck session of Congress. The leadership race is expected to be the focus of another meeting later Wednesday.
Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez, Elise Viebeck and Erica Werner contributed to this report.