November 15, 2018

Congressional Leadership Elections Yield Few Surprises

On Nov. 14, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) defeated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), co-founder of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, by a vote of 159-43 for the position of minority leader in the House of Representatives in the upcoming 116th Congress. In the Senate, both Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were unanimously elected to serve as majority leader and minority leader, respectively. House Democrats are expected to hold elections for their leadership posts during the week of Nov. 26.

Congressman McCarthy never faced a credible challenge and, as expected, cruised toward an election victory in the race for minority leader. McCarthy faces a difficult task of uniting an often fractious GOP caucus following the loss of the House in the midterm elections. The newly elected minority leader will be tasked with developing an effective political message that contrasts with the Democrats, as well as helping identify and recruit enough credible candidates to enable Republicans to reassume majority control of the House in 2020.

To assist this effort, House Republicans elected Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) to serve as minority whip, the second highest leadership position for the party lacking a majority in the House. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, will assume the role of Republican conference chair following the decision by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to not seek re-election to the position. McMorris Rodgers faced a close reelection challenge and prefers to serve as the ranking member of a key congressional subcommittee. The GOP also selected Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) to serve as the next chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, a position dedicated to securing the House majority through a combination of recruiting new candidates and fundraising.

There was little movement within the Senate GOP leadership ranks, with Republicans maintaining control of the chamber and potentially expanding its majority, depending on the results of the Florida Senate recount. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) will assume the role of majority whip because Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was unable to seek reelection because of term limits. Rounding out the Senate Republican leadership team are Senators John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), Republican Conference Chair, Roy Blunt (R-MO), Policy Committee Chair, Joni Ernst (R-IA), Republican Conference Vice Chair, and Todd Young (R-IN), Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

Despite the inability to make sizable gains in the 2018 midterm elections, Senate Democrats retained the existing structure and slate of leaders including:

  • Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Minority Whip
  • Sen. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Assistant Democratic Leader
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Vice Chair, Democratic Conference
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chair, Democratic Conference
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chair, Democratic Steering Committee
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of Outreach
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Vice Chair, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Democratic Conference Secretary

Unlike Republicans who formally elect a leader of the NRSC, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has not yet selected anyone to serve as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) has excellent relationships with all members of the House and Senate leadership teams in both political parties and we look forward to working them in the 116th Congress.