Caucus elections last week left the leadership teams of Senate Republicans and Democrats both largely intact for the coming term of Congress. Here are the lineups, along with a summary of their positions on major healthcare matters:
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.)
Formerly Senate majority whip, Lott assumed his duties in June after former Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) left to devote full attention to his presidential campaign. Lott is generally recognized as more conservative and partisan than dealmaker Dole, but he also was instrumental in the passage of health insurance reform legislation in the last session of Congress. Lott also has been most emphatic about the need for bipartisanship in the coming term. An ally of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) while serving in the House, he has emerged as the Republicans' top national leader as Gingrich's popularity has sunk.
Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.)
Former chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, Nickles became whip when Lott was elected majority leader. He also is seen as more conservative than Dole and has been active on healthcare issues. Nickles was one of several senators to try to block the health insurance reform legislation and was strongly in favor of turning the federal share of the Medicaid program into lump-sum "block grants" to the states.
Republican Conference Chairman Connie Mack (R-Fla.)
Formerly secretary of the Republican conference, which is the Republicans' strategy-making caucus in the Senate, Mack takes the job of third-ranking Senate Republican from Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Although he's not known as a leader on healthcare issues, he was one of three Republicans to respond on national television to Clinton's speech introducing his healthcare reform plan in 1993. He also opposed the Medicare catastrophic-insurance law in 1988, which passed only to later meet the opposition of America's senior citizens. As a senator from a state with millions of Medicare-dependent retirees, he could wield some clout on healthcare issues.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.)
Daschle remains the leader of the Democrats, a position he has held for three years. A strong partisan who has grown into an effective opposition leader, Daschle rallied Democrats to stall a number of Republican initiatives during the last Congress.
Although he voted for a balanced budget in the past, Daschle led the fight against the constitutional amendment in the last Congress, eventually defeating the measure by one vote. He has already declared he would support such an amendment next year, but only if it safeguards the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
Daschle was instrumental in crafting the health insurance reform plan enacted earlier this year and has close links to the White House. He was one of the staunchest supporters of the Clinton health reform plan.
Democrats lost two seats in the Senate in the November elections. But with 45 Democrats, Daschle still has the votes to lead successful filibusters.