U.S. Senate Republicans elected John Thune of South Dakota to become the third-ranking leader in a revision of their top team prompted by Senator Lamar Alexander’s decision to step aside.
Thune, a second-term senator, ran unopposed to replace Alexander of Tennessee as head of the Senate Republican Conference, in charge of helping shape the party’s message. Alexander, who announced the results in an e-mail, said in September he would give up the position to focus on his 2014 re-election and offer a more independent voice on deficit reduction and other debates.
Alexander’s decision opened three leadership jobs. In today’s only contested race, Republicans elected Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri for the No. 5 job, vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Blunt is a former House majority whip and longtime legislator now in his first Senate term.
Blunt will replace Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who will take over from Thune in the fourth-ranking position as Republican Policy Committee chairman. Like Thune, Barrasso faced no opposition to his rise up the ranks of a team led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
All of the leadership positions will be voted upon after the 2012 elections, which will determine control of the Senate. At that time, Republicans will pick a new No. 2 leader because Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona plans to retire.