GOP keeps McCon­nell; Dems el­e­vate Schumer

Par­ties pick Se­nate lead­ers for next year’s Congress

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Alan Fram

WASH­ING­TON — Se­nate Repub­li­cans re-elected Mitch McCon­nell on Wed­nes­day to be ma­jor­ity leader next year while Democrats picked Charles Schumer to lead them, set­ting the chief ac­tors as the cham­ber pre­pares to push an agenda that will be dom­i­nated by Don­ald Trump and the GOP.

McCon­nell, 74, is a mas­ter of the Se­nate’s leg­isla­tive chess game. His role will be to steer GOP bills to the desk of a pres­i­dent whose name he barely spoke dur- ing a tu­mul­tuous cam­paign in which many Repub­li­cans viewed Trump and his in­cen­di­ary com­ments on Mus­lims, vet­er­ans and oth­ers as po­lit­i­cal poi­son.

“It’s time to ac­cept the re­sults of the elec­tion, to lower the tone and to see what we can do to­gether to make progress for the coun­try,” McCon­nell, from Kent ucky, t old re­porters Wed­nes­day.

As Se­nate minority leader, Schumer will as­sume his weak­ened party’s most pow­er­ful re­main­ing post as it strug­gles to de­fine its role in a Repub­li­can­dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment.

The New Yorker’s as­cen­sion from his No. 3 spot has been a vir­tual lock since last year, when he quickly nailed down votes for the top job af­ter cur­rent Minority Leader Harry Reid, DNev., an­nounced he’d re­tire. Other than Schumer, most of each party’s lead­ers will re­main in their posts next year, an ironic sta­bil­ity fol­low­ing an elec­tion that seemed to show a de­mand by vot­ers for change.

McCon­nell and Schumer faced no op­po­si­tion at sep­a­rate closed-door meet­ings.

Repub­li­cans will con­trol the White House, House and Se­nate but their po­ten­tial Achilles’ heel is the Se­nate, which they will dom­i­nate 52-48. As­sum­ing Repub­li­cans don’t elim­i­nate the rule al­low­ing fil­i­busters, Schumer should be able to keep the GOP from the 60 votes they’d need on some is­sues to break the pro­ce­dural de­lays, po­ten­tial lev- er­age for bar­gains.

“Where we can work to­gether we will,” Schumer told re­porters about Trump, with whom he shares an af­fec­tion for TV sound bites and sharp el­bows. But Schumer said he’s also told the pres­i­dent-elect, “On is­sues where we dis­agree, you can ex­pect a strong and tough fight.”

Schumer has men­tioned in­fra­struc­ture as an area of pos­si­ble co­op­er­a­tion.

Many Democrats will feel pres­sure to back Repub­li­cans on other is­sues, too. Twenty-five of the 33 Se­nate seats up for 2018 re-elec­tion are held by Democrats and their two al­lied in­de­pen­dents, in­clud­ing sev­eral from deeply Repub­li­can states like Mon­tana and West Vir­ginia, and they’ll have to find ways to ap­peal to vot­ers.

Un­der­scor­ing Democrats’ ef­fort to un­der­stand why last week’s elec­tion turned so sourly against them, Schumer an­nounced a broad, 10-mem­ber lead­er­ship team. It ranged from lib­er­als like Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts to moder­ates like West Vir­ginia’s Joe Manchin.

“We need to be a party that speaks to and works on be­half of all Amer­i­cans,” Schumer said.

Schumer, 65, vaulted over No. 2 Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Dick Durbin of Illi­nois, who will re­main in that slot. He’s been a savvy par­ti­san com­bat­ant will­ing to strike com­pro­mises.

McCon­nell has proven to be a coolly ef­fec­tive leader, steer­ing his party through a long bat­tle over a Supreme Court va­cancy and Trump’s stormy pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy. McCon­nell dis­tanced him­self from Trump dur­ing the cam­paign, at times flatly re­fus­ing to dis­cuss the race with re­porters.

McCon­nell was Se­nate minority leader for eight years be­fore be­com­ing ma­jor­ity leader in 2015.

He’s pushed a con­ser­va­tive agenda while cut­ting bud­get deals with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. And he en­raged Democrats by re­fus­ing to let the Se­nate con­sider Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of fed­eral Judge Mer­rick Gar­land to fill a Supreme Court va­cancy that oc­curred last Fe­bru­ary, which paid div­i­dends when Trump won.

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