WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republicans are welcoming the first woman to their leadership team in years, with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst winning a down-ballot spot as the party tries to address the optics of its side being dominated by men.
Ernst on Wednesday called her election to leadership "a great honor."
The race wasn't without a fight. Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer also was vying for the job as vice chair of the Senate Republican conference. Fischer told reporters after the closed-door meeting that Ernst had secured the votes to win.
Republicans haven't had a woman in their leadership ranks in nearly a decade, since Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski stepped away from her post after losing a primary challenge. Murkowski went on to twice win re-election in Alaska and chairs the Senate Energy Committee.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump is lying about voter fraud in Florida amid a recount of the Senate race between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott.
Schumer said Wednesday he's confident Nelson will win re-election against Scott, who's Florida's governor.
Schumer says Trump and Scott "just lied." He says they "said there's fraud when their own Republican officials in Florida have said there's no fraud."
Schumer says Trump and Scott "are trying to shut down the election because they're afraid" of a Nelson victory.
Nelson and Scott are in Washington as incumbent and newly elected lawmakers arrive on Capitol Hill. Scott holds the narrowest of leads over Nelson.
Trump and Scott have accused elections supervisors in two Florida Democratic counties of fraud without offering evidence. State law enforcement and elections officials say no fraud complaints have been filed.
Senate Democrats are keeping their team headed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York even though one of the two new Democratic senators-elect, Kyrsten Sinema (SIN'-uh-muh) of Arizona, has said she wouldn't vote for him.
Democrats re-elected their party leadership by acclamation during a closed-door meeting Wednesday.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois was re-elected as minority whip, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state won a new term as assistant leader. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was re-elected as Democratic policy committee chair.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been elected to another term as GOP leader.
He won a new term by acclamation Wednesday.
The rest of the GOP line-up below the Kentucky Republican is expected to shuffle slightly. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the GOP whip, is being forced out by term limits. That allows Sen. John Thune of South Dakota to move up to the No. 2 spot. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri are expected to take over the third- and fourth-ranking spots.
Republicans are poised to elect their first woman to leadership in almost a decade. Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer is running for vice chair of the conference. She faces GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.
Rick Scott is Florida's Republican governor, not a senator-elect. Yet there he was at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's left shoulder when the Kentucky Republican welcomed GOP senators who will take their seats in January when the new Congress is sworn in.
Scott holds the narrowest of leads over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and a recount is ongoing.
During a brief photo op in McConnell's Capitol office on Wednesday, Scott did not reply to a question about whether he contends there was fraud in the Florida election.
President Donald Trump and Scott have accused elections supervisors in two Florida Democratic counties of fraud without offering evidence. State law enforcement and elections officials have said no fraud complaints have been filed.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH'-see) is challenging the Democrats who are fighting to stop her from becoming speaker to put forward an alternative.
Asked about the opposition Wednesday, Pelosi noted the lack of a challenger. The California Democrat says, "Come on in. The water's warm."
The Democrats seeking to stop Pelosi's rise claim they have the votes to block her. Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon has said Pelosi "doesn't have the votes" to become speaker again, in part because of the newly elected members who have promised to oppose her.
House Democrats will not hold their leadership elections until after Thanksgiving. The full House will elect a new speaker in January, after the new Democratic majority is sworn into office.
Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and California Rep. Kevin McCarthy are running for House minority leader.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio says the GOP lost its House majority in the midterm election because it didn't deliver on promises to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, fund President Donald Trump's wall and replace the Obama health care law.
Jordan, a founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is running for House minority leader in the new Congress against California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current majority leader and pick of the GOP establishment.
Jordan told Fox's "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday that if he is elected to the leadership job, he will work on "doing what we told the American people we were gonna do."
Jordan says Republicans must be prepared to fight investigations of Trump and his administration that House Democrats plan when they have the majority in January.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is running to take over next year's shrunken caucus in closed-door elections that will set the tone for the new Congress.
The race for minority leader is McCarthy's to lose Wednesday. But the California Republican, who is an ally of President Donald Trump, must fend off a challenge from conservative Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jordan is a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
They two encountered questions and finger-pointing during a private meeting with lawmakers Tuesday night as the GOP sorted through the midterm defeat that put Democrats in the majority next year.
Elections Wednesday will also determine party leadership in the Senate.
Voting for the biggest race, Nancy Pelosi's bid to return as the Democrats' nominee for speaker, is later this month.