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Schumer to Lead Democrats, McConnell to Lead Republicans in US Senate

  • VOA News

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., center, accompanied by fellow Senate Democrats, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington after being chosen Senate minority leader for the 115th Congress, Nov. 16, 2016.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., center, accompanied by fellow Senate Democrats, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington after being chosen Senate minority leader for the 115th Congress, Nov. 16, 2016.

U.S. Senate leadership positions are being filled for the new session that will start in early January, reflecting the balance of power determined in elections held across the country last week.

Veteran New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer was unanimously elected minority leader Wednesday. He will succeed Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who is retiring.

Saying he was "humbled and honored" by the position, and pointing out the diversity of the Democratic Senate class, Schumer said the party was ready to work with Republican Donald Trump but also "go toe to toe against the president-elect whenever our values or the progress we've made is under assault."

In addition to Schumer's election, Democrats re-elected Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois as the minority whip, the party's No. 2 position in the Senate.

Washington Senator Patty Murray will serve as the third-ranking Democrat, forgoing a challenge to Durbin but assuming a new title of assistant Democratic leader.

In a gesture to his party's progressive wing, Schumer added Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to his newly expanded leadership team.

Warren will be a vice chair of the conference and Sanders will serve as the chair of outreach. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and challenged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the party's presidential nomination.

Sanders described his position as being responsible for "bringing millions of working people together, young people together, showing that government works for all of us."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, leaves a Senate Republican conference leadership election meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington after being re-elected majority leader for the upcoming 115th Congress, Nov. 16, 2016.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, leaves a Senate Republican conference leadership election meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington after being re-elected majority leader for the upcoming 115th Congress, Nov. 16, 2016.

On the Republican side, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell will continue in his leadership position.

Republicans will control the White House, House and Senate in the coming year, but a potential stumbling block exists in 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 reaching the 60 votes they'd need on some issues to break procedural delays.

Illustrating a GOP openness toward Trump, Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer said, "Mr. Trump is ready to get to work and we're there with him.''

Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of Trump's most outspoken congressional critics, said he'd back Trump's efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law but added, "I'll oppose him when it's warranted.''

The congressional leadership positions take effect prior to the January 20 inauguration of Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

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