U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, was re-elected as expected Thursday to the No. 3 position — majority whip — in the House’s ruling Republican hierarchy.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu broke ranks with her fellow Democrats to vote against the re-election of Harry Reid, of Nevada, as the party’s leader. Reid, currently majority leader, was re-elected but will serve as minority leader in the incoming Congress in January as a result of Democratic defeats in Senate elections Nov. 4, which cost them control of the Senate.
Landrieu’s effort to avoid the fate of the failed Democratic candidates will be resolved Dec. 6, when she meets Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, in a runoff under Louisiana’s unique election system. She narrowly led Cassidy in the Nov. 4 open primary, but polls show her losing to him Dec. 6.
Cassidy has sought to tie Landrieu to Reid and to Democratic President Barack Obama throughout the campaign, in line with the nationwide Republican strategy to capitalize on Obama’s unpopularity.
“I cast my vote against the status quo leadership to send a signal of my determination to continue to be an independent voice on behalf of the people of Louisiana,” Landrieu said in a statement after the leadership election.
Landrieu, 58, has sought to put some distance between herself and both Obama and Reid. In an impromptu interview in the spring, she said she would support Reid’s re-election as party leader, but she backed off that in a campaign debate late last month, acknowledging she was changing her position to undecided.
Reid reportedly has been lobbying Democratic senators to raise and contribute money to Landrieu’s re-election campaign, which has lost financial support from national Democratic organizations.
Scalise, 49, was first elected whip in June, when the spot opened up as a domino effect of the upset loss of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary. Scalise defeated other contenders for the job then but faced no organized opposition Thursday.
“I look forward to working with one of the largest and most dynamic Republican majorities in history to pass legislation that advances the conservative principles that united us to solve our nation’s problems and move America forward,” Scalise said in a statement after his fellow House Republicans filled their leadership positions.
Scalise was elected to his fourth term in the House on Nov. 4, the same day that Republicans across the country rolled up their biggest House majority since the late 1940s. As whip, his job is to line up votes on the House floor in support of legislation advanced by the Republican leadership.
The position is the highest attained by a House member from Louisiana since Democrat Hale Boggs, of New Orleans, served as majority leader — the No. 2 job — until his death in a plane crash in Alaska in 1973.
Also re-elected Thursday by House Republicans was Kevin McCarthy, of California, as majority leader. The Republicans re-nominated their top-ranking member, John Boehner, of Ohio, as speaker, a constitutional position that will be filled by the full House when the new Congress convenes in January —when Boehner’s re-election as speaker will be a formality.