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McConnell, Schumer to lead, but Senate majority uncertain

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky answers questions after Senate Republicans held leadership elections, on Capitol Hill in Tuesday (Nov. 10). AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senators chose party leaders Tuesday with few changes at the top, but it’s unclear who will be the majority leader in the new Congress with no party having secured control of the Senate until a January runoff election in Georgia.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., won another term as Republican leader, his office said, cementing his role as the longest-serving GOP leader in U.S. history. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. won his party’s support to stay on leading the Democrats, according to a Democrat granted anonymity to discuss the closed-door balloting.

In this Aug. 6, 2020, file photo, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks to reporters as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., listens at right on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

None of the leaders were being challenged in Tuesday’s private party elections, with their entire leadership teams set to be reinstated.

But it’s still to be determined whether McConnell will retain his role as majority leader or cede it to Schumer as the final races for the U.S. Senate play out.

Last week’s elections have left Republicans with 49 seats to Democrats’ 48 heading into the new Congress next year. Republicans brushed back Democratic challengers in several states, but have failed so far to lock down the seats needed to retain their majority.

Races for two seats in Georgia heading to a Jan. 5 runoff are swiftly becoming a showdown over control of the chamber. The state is closely divided, but no Democrat has been elected senator in some 20 years. Another seat in Alaska remains too early to call, though Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan is favored for another term against Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat.

In North Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis held off Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in a tight race. After a week of vote counting, Cunningham called Tillis Tuesday (Nov. 10) to concede, saying “the voters have spoken.”

The stakes are high for all sides, with strategists projecting an eye-popping $500 million to be spent on the Georgia runoff elections in the weeks ahead.

GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Raphael Warnock, a Black pastor in Atlanta. And Republican Sen. David Perdue will face Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

The Democratic leadership team includes Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., as whip; Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., assistant leader, and several others, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., keeping leadership roles. Democrats added Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., to the leadership team.

The Republican leadership team is set to include Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., as whip; with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and others holding other leadership roles.

From The Associated Press. May not be republished.

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  • Lisa Mascaro