The House and Senate both returned to Washington on Tuesday to begin a post-election, lame duck session. In the lower chamber, House members considered a number of bills under suspension as well as a measure to remove the grey wolf from the Endangered Species list. Meanwhile, the Senate took up Michelle Bowman’s nomination to sit on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and a Coast Guard reauthorization bill that has already passed the House. On Monday, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) announced an agreement on a reauthorization bill through FY19, teeing up a cloture vote of 92-5 on Tuesday and final vote of 94-6 to pass the bill on Wednesday. The chamber will vote to confirm Bowman Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, both House and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats held leadership elections. As expected, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was re-elected to represent the Conference as Leader and Senator John Thune was elected to replace term-limited Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) as Majority Whip. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) beat Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) in the only contested leadership race to serve as Conference Vice Chair. Additionally, Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Todd Young (R-IN) were elected to join Senate Republican leadership ranks. On the House side, Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was elected House minority leader, beating Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in a 159-43 vote, and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was elected Minority Whip. Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Mark Walker (R-NC), and Jason Smith (R-MO) will also join the House Republican leadership team.
Democratic Senate leadership remained the same, with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) re-elected Leader. In the lower chamber, House Democrats held their first caucus meeting since the midterms, but leadership elections are not expected until after the Thanksgiving recess.