McConnell celebrates milestone as Senate Dems retain power

Jan 2, 2023, 6:58 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 2:49 pm
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to his office as he talks to reporters on Capi...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to his office as he talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are again claiming the Senate majority, but much of the chamber’s focus Tuesday was on the top Republican as Mitch McConnell became the longest serving Senate leader in history.

McConnell, 80, surpassed Montana Sen. Mike Mansfield’s record of 16 years as party leader when the Senate convened midday to begin the new Congress. While the Kentucky Republican has acknowledged he would prefer his own party to be taking charge — “the majority is better,” he says frequently — he celebrated his own personal milestone with a Senate floor speech looking back at party leaders and their different styles over the decades.

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., cemented a legacy of his own after winning a second term as leader and also being sworn in as the longest-serving senator from New York. Democrats will go into the new Congress with a 51-49 majority, with newly Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema receiving her committee assignments from Democrats.

The celebratory Senate proceedings were in marked contrast to the new Republican House majority across the Capitol, where Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is fighting to become speaker amid contentious internal strife in his own party. McConnell, his party’s leader since 2007, easily dismissed a similar challenge from within after the November midterms, and, like Schumer, begins the new year with strong support from his caucus.

Similar to President Joe Biden, both Schumer and McConnell are opening the year pledging to work across the aisle — and all three will have to find ways to work with the new GOP House majority to keep government running. McConnell will make a rare appearance with Biden in his home state of Kentucky this week to highlight nearly $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that lawmakers approved on a bipartisan basis in 2021.

Claiming his party’s majority after senators were sworn in, Schumer said that party differences “do not absolve either either side of the need to work together when the good of the country is on the line.”

“Whoever ends up becoming speaker of the House, I hope they will find a way to work with us in a productive way this Congress,” Schumer said, as McCarthy failed to secure a majority in three rounds of voting and the House postponed further proceedings until Wednesday.

Praising the tenure of Mansfield, a Democrat who led his party from 1961 to 1977, the ever-restrained McConnell hinted at his own long-term strategy — a contrast to the bombast and chaos across the Capitol.

“There’ve been leaders who rose to the job through lower-key, behind-the-scenes styles; who preferred to focus on serving their colleagues rather than dominating them,” McConnell said in his floor speech, and that “is how Senator Michael Joseph Mansfield of Montana became the longest-serving Senate leader in American history until this morning.”

Without directly comparing himself to Mansfield, McConnell appeared to draw similarities between their styles, saying that Mansfield knew how to work the Senate and “contented himself with the modest task of keeping the Senate machinery oiled” while other senators with “stronger and clearer visions championed particular outcomes.”

Also Tuesday, the Senate swore in seven new members, five Republicans and two Democrats. Unlike the House, where the swearing in was overshadowed by the antagonistic fight over the speaker’s chair, the mood was jovial in the Senate. Family, friends and predecessors looked on as those freshman, along with their new colleagues who won re-election, took an oath of office administered by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Senators clapped as Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat and Iraq War veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in 2004, walked down the center aisle of the Senate to be sworn in instead of using her wheelchair — leaning on her Illinois colleague, Sen. Dick Durbin, for support. Former Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski of Alaska accompanied his daughter, newly re-elected Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and hugged her after she took her oath. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, stood behind newly elected Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, a rare show of bipartisanship on swearing-in day.

John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is the only new senator who flipped party control of his seat, having won an open seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The other six new senators are all replacing retiring members of the same party.

New Republican senators are Ted Budd of North Carolina, Katie Britt of Alabama, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Vance of Ohio.

Vermont’s Peter Welch is the only other new Democrat, replacing Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring after almost five decades in the seat. “I’m looking forward to getting to work,” Welch said as he walked onto the Senate floor to be sworn in.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray made her own history, replacing Leahy as the first woman Senate president pro tempore. That position is held by the senior-most member of the majority party and is third in line to the presidency.

“I’m honored to officially become the President Pro Tempore of the Senate today,” Murray tweeted after she took her oath, Leahy standing behind her. “It’s not lost on me the significance of what it means to be the first woman to serve in this role. This is another sign that slowly but surely, Congress is looking more like America.”

Biden tweeted his congratulations to Murray: “We’re witnessing history on Capitol Hill,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Reporter arrested during news event on Ohio train derailment

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A broadcast reporter was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and arrested for trespassing Wednesday while covering a news conference about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in Ohio. NewsNation posted video of correspondent Evan Lambert being arrested in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine where […]
21 hours ago
Nathan Chasing Horse stands in court. Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in North Las Vegas, Nev. Nathan Chasing...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor charged in 2018 rape in PNW

Canadian police confirmed Tuesday they are pursuing a criminal case against a former "Dances With Wolves" actor who was arrested last week and charged in Nevada with sexually abusing and trafficking Indigenous women and girls.
21 hours ago
Maria Chagwena, a millet farmer, holds a plate with millet grains outside her house in Zimbabwe's a...
Associated Press

UN eyes revival of millets as global grain uncertainty grows

RUSHINGA, Zimbabwe (AP) — While others in her Zimbabwean village agonize over a maize crop seemingly headed for failure, Jestina Nyamukunguvengu picks up a hoe and slices through the soil of her fields that are lush green with a pearl millet crop in the African country’s arid Rushinga district. “These crops don’t get affected by […]
21 hours ago
This Jan. 10, 2023, photo provided by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance shows a Pacific pocket mo...
Associated Press

Tiny California mouse wins Guinness award for longevity

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A tiny California mouse now has a big title after winning a Guinness World record for longevity. A Pacific pocket mouse named Pat — after “Star Trek” actor Patrick Stewart — received the Guinness approval Wednesday as the oldest living mouse in human care at the ripe age of 9 years […]
21 hours ago
This shows a Chinese Dahua brand security camera in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. Aust...
Associated Press

Australian Defense Department to remove Chinese-made cameras

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Defense Department will remove surveillance cameras made by Chinese Communist Party-linked companies from its buildings, the government said Thursday after the U.S. and Britain made similar moves. The Australian newspaper reported Thursday that at least 913 cameras, intercoms, electronic entry systems and video recorders developed and manufactured by Chinese companies […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
McConnell celebrates milestone as Senate Dems retain power