WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) was unanimously elected Wednesday, Nov. 14, by fellow party members to the position of Senate majority whip. The position is the second highest ranking in Senate party leadership, behind the Senate majority leader.

Thune will be the highest ranking Republican senator from South Dakota in the state’s history. Thune's predecessor in the Senate, former-Sen. Tom Daschle, holds that title on the Democratic side of the aisle, serving as Senate minority and majority leader in the late '90s and early 2000s.

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Thune told Forum News Service he is "happy to have a seat at the table and a voice in our majority’s leadership."

"It gives me a chance to make sure that South Dakota's priorities are front and center," he said.

Those South Dakota priorities are issues that impact the state and country's economy, Thune said: agriculture, transportation, infrastructure, broadband access, taxes and trade policy. Thune said he has worked on these issues already in his roles as chair of the Senate GOP -- third in command in Senate Republican leadership -- and as chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee.

With Democrats taking back control of the House in midterm elections, resulting in a split congress come January, Thune said he thinks he and Senate leadership are prepared to reach across the aisle. But whether House Democrats will reciprocate, he said is up in the air for weeks or months.

Thune said the incoming speaker of the House may face pressure from the party to launch investigations on Republican President Donald Trump "to the detriment of actually trying to put up a record of legislative accomplishment."

"A lot of it will come down to whether they want to work with the president or whether they want to fight him," Thune said. "As far as [the Senate is] concerned, we’re ready to go to work and we can think of things that we can do together."

One of those that Thune said "shouldn't be a partisan issue" is improving infrastructure. And to Thune, infrastructure isn't exclusive to roads, bridges, railroads and air travel, but also increasing broadband internet access to areas like rural South Dakota.

And historically, Thune said, there have been productive periods of divided government.

"Sometimes a divided government can lead to very successful legislative outcomes, but it requires both sides to be willing to give and take," he said.

Thune will be replacing U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) who was elected whip in 2012. Cornyn nominated Thune to be his successor, and he ran unopposed.

Thune has served in the U.S. Senate since 2004, and was the Senate GOP chair since 2011. In addition to chairing the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, he sits on the committees of Finance and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Prior to his time in the Senate, he represented South Dakota in the U.S. House for three terms.

Contact Sarah Mearhoff at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 610-790-4992.

Contact Sarah Mearhoff at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 610-790-4992.