Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) and two freshmen, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), have joined the Senate GOP whip team, where they will work with Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), the No. 2 ranking Republican in the upper chamber.
“Rob served in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the previous administration,” said Kyl in a statement. “Roy is the former House Republican Whip. And Roger has contributed greatly to our efforts over the past two years. Their unparalleled knowledge and command of the issues will be critical in helping to advance the Republican legislative agenda.”
The trio joins Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), David Vitter (La.), and Richard Burr (N.C.) on the whip squad. Burr will remain chief deputy whip behind Kyl.
Over the holiday break, I spoke with Kyl about leadership and the nature of whipping in the Senate. He shed a little light on cloakroom happenings.
“[Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell] and I meet to try and figure out what our strategy is, then make a decision about what we want to have whipped,” Kyl explained. “That decision is an art: You need to know where you think the caucus is going to be, and where you think it wants to be led. Ordinarily we only whip questions where we definitely want to get a certain result and want the caucus to stick together on that result. If it’s a total lost cause from day one, you’re probably not going to whip that question.”
McConnell, Kyl noted, often contributes to the counting of noses, and cited the Kentuckian’s whipping on the omnibus spending bill last month as crucial. “Mitch looked at that and said, ‘You know, the public is not going to see the good that our appropriators accomplished, the way they held the numbers down and so on. They’re only going to see the earmarks and the other bad stuff.’ So, he said, we really need to see if we can get everybody working in the same direction. I will give Mitch the credit on that. I was, at that time, often occupied on the START treaty, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and other things. He did the bulk of the work on the omnibus appropriations bill, and got the members of the appropriations committee to go along with his approach. I give him 99 percent of the credit on that one.”