North Carolina’s senior senator was recently featured in The Charlotte Observer pontificating on his personal ambitions within the world’s “greatest deliberating body”:
Sen. Richard Burr says not to count him out of the race for the Senate Republicans’ second most powerful job. The Winston-Salem Republican is largely considered the underdog in the whip race. Burr said he heard the same doubts in the 1990s.
“It may be accurate, but they said the same thing about me when I ran for Congress; that there was no way,” he said. “If I had not been willing to take it on, I wouldn’t be here.”
As the party’s whip, Burr would be the right-hand man for Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and as such responsible for mobilizing votes on major party issues. He would also be the presumed replacement as party leader if McConnell were to resign.
Current Senate Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has announced he’s retiring. His replacement will be determined by secret ballot following the November general election.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is considered the favorite.
Cornyn is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He helped lead the Republican turnaround after the devastating 2008 election. If Republicans win four additional Senate seats in November, they will retake the majority.
“Cornyn has been paying his dues in a big way,” said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report. “If the Republicans get the majority, he will be hard to beat because he gets most of the credit.”
The flip of that is if Republicans don’t win the majority.
“That could be a strike against Cornyn and help Burr,” said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political science professor. “It will look like he didn’t do what he promised to do.”
Cornyn declined to comment on the whip race.
Burr does have significant connections, having served under Kyle as chief deputy whip. Duffy said Burr has shown he can work with both the more moderate and ultra-conservative factions of the party.
He is also close with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Ultra-conservative? You mean those folks who vote along the lines of the GOP platform? Read on:
Burr blames Congress’s low approval ratings on what he sees as Americans’ frustrations with their leaders’ inability to stay focused on the economy and other issues they care most about. He said he sees opportunities to improve the lines of communication within the party.
“At the leadership table, the decisions are made on what we as a party are going to stake out as the direction we’re headed,” he said. “I, along with others, have frustrations with our inability to head in a definable way.”
This is not the first time Burr has run for a leadership position. In 2007, he lost his bid to be chairman of the Republican Conference to Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The vote was 31-16.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has also indicated he’s open to the position, but has yet to make an official announcement. Thune, the third-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, could shake things up. He has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. If he decided to run, Bitzer said some members may want to use the whip’s job as a grooming opportunity to give Thune more leadership responsibilities.
All three candidates have made inroads with colleagues and potential future colleagues by giving to their campaigns. Through their political action committees, Burr and Cornyn have each given more than $100,000 to other members, candidates, the NRSC and other PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Thune has given more than $70,000.
If Burr loses, some predict he will take Cornyn’s current job as NRSC chairman. Burr said he’s not interested.
“I have no desire to head the senatorial committee,” he said. “…If that’s the case, I would just as soon focus on the policy initiatives, which are plentiful right now.”
What kind of initiatives, senator? More of that gays-in-the-military, raising-the-debt-ceiling, traveling-round-the-world-on-the-taxpayer-dime-with-Kay-Hagan, swooning-over-John-McCain kind of stuff? ( *Goody.*)
Also, I thought focusing on the policy initiatives was THE big reason you were sent to Washington.
Senator Jesse Helms spent 30 years in DC and NEVER held a GOP leadership position. He was a master of the Senate’s rules. Helms used that knowledge to often thwart the Democrats and his own caucus’s go-along-get-along leaders. His efforts helped to water down and / or kill A LOT of bad legislation.
The Senate was designed by our forefathers to give individual senators a tremendous amount of power in the body’s operations. Unlike the House, it’s not necessary to be a party caucus leader to be a major force in the Senate.