Republicans re-elect McConnell Senate majority leader; Democrats elect Schumer

In this May 24, 2016 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP File Photo/Evan Vucci)
In this May 24, 2016 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP File Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP/WLFI) — Senate Republicans have re-elected Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell to be majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January and starts working on Donald Trump’s agenda.

McConnell is widely popular among Republicans and his election was by acclimation on Wednesday. The 74-year-old is considered a clever tactician who mixes conservative leanings with a willingness to cut bipartisan deals when necessary.

McConnell was Senate minority leader for eight years before becoming majority leader when the GOP took control in 2015.

He enraged Democrats by refusing to let the Senate consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy last February. That paid dividends when Trump was elected president.

McConnell distanced himself from Trump during the campaign, but says he’s ready to work with him.

Senate Democrats elected Chuck Schumer to be minority leader. The New Yorker will be Washington’s most powerful Democrat as the party confronts an all-Republican government led by Trump.

Democrats unanimously picked Schumer at a closed-door meeting Wednesday. He will succeed Harry Reid, the combative Nevada Democrat who is retiring in January after 30 years in the Senate.

Republicans will control the White House, the House and Senate. On Tuesday, Republicans voted to re-nominate House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Republicans will have a 52-48 edge in the Senate. Democrats will have some leverage because on important issues, they’ll likely force Republicans to garner 60 votes to end filibusters.

It won’t always be possible for Schumer to keep Senate Democrats together because many will seek re-election in two years from GOP-leaning states.