McConnell, Schumer elected to top spots in Senate ahead of battles with Trump

Story highlights

  • Both political parties chose their leaders in the Senate on Wednesday
  • Democrats also formally added Vermont independent Bernie Sanders to their ranks

Washington (CNN)Republicans re-elected Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader Wednesday while Democrats tapped Chuck Schumer as their leader as both sides prepare for critical battles with the incoming Trump administration.

"Last Tuesday night was something none of us expected," Schumer said Wednesday. "When you lose an election like this, you can't flinch, you can't ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask, 'Why?' Analyze it and learn from it.'"
    As part of that post-election analysis, Schumer formally added top liberal lawmakers -- Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- to the ranks of leadership. But he also added Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat who is one of many Democrats facing perilous re-election bids in just two years.
    Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said expanding the ranks of Democratic leadership to span the ideology of the party from Sanders to the more conservative Manchin was important to rebuilding the party and its message.
    "We need a much more bolder discussion of the economy, not just Donald Trump," said Klobuchar, a member of the Democratic leadership.
    Democrats also shuffled some veteran lawmakers into new positions to prepare for pending battles with the Trump White House.
    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a long-serving California Democrat, will take over her party's top seat on the Judiciary Committee -- putting her in place to lead the fight against any Trump nominee for the Supreme Court. Veteran Judiciary member Patrick Leahy of Vermont will head to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
    "We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans," Schumer told reporters, noting that Democrats "can't flinch and can't ignore" results of election.
    Senate Democrats picked up two seats last week, but it was just shy of enough to win the majority.
    McConnell was formally nominated by Sen. Marco Rubio and freshman Sen. Todd Young of Indiana -- a nod to his extensive efforts in both states which helped him keep their majority.
    McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, led the successful effort to hold the Senate Republicans and was rewarded with an easy victory in a private meeting with his caucus.
    "It's an honor to once again have been chosen by my colleagues to continue serving as their leader," McConnell said in a statement Wednesday morning. "We are eager to work with House Republicans and President-elect Trump to bring the national and economic security our nation is asking for."
    The list of items that senators will likely tackle with the new administration includes at least one area of bipartisan support -- infrastructure spending -- but will include hot-button items, like immigration and Obamacare.
    Rubio, who was hammered by Trump during the campaign for his previous support of immigration reforms, said he would consider Trump's call to build a wall but wanted more from the new administration.
    "The wall and other barriers are a key aspect of it, but that alone won't be enough," Rubio said Wednesday. "I think the vast majority of Americans would be in favor of doing something reasonable with people who are not delinquents and criminals, who have been here a long time. Especially those who were brought here as children."