Three Republican U.S. senators said Tuesday that keeping their party in the majority in Congress will protect tax cuts and ensure a conservative judiciary.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota was in Mississippi raising money for Republicans ahead of midterm elections. He also attended a business conference with Mississippi's two GOP senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith. The three spoke to reporters before the private meeting.
Republicans hold 51 of 100 Senate seats.
"Right now, every race is extremely high stakes," said Thune, who holds Senate Republicans' third-highest leadership post. "And, you know, obviously it's an unusual circumstance that we have two Senate races in Mississippi this year, both of which we need to hang onto if we're going to hang onto our majority, which I think is critical to the future of our country."
Wicker has held one of Mississippi's Senate seats for just over a decade, and is seeking another six-year term. He faces one challenger, business owner Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead, in the June 5 GOP primary. Six Democrats are competing in their party primary that day, with a runoff June 26, if needed. A Reform Party candidate will also be on the ballot in November.
Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Hyde-Smith to temporarily succeed longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned April 1 because of health concerns.
Hyde-Smith is one of five candidates in a Nov. 6 special election, and the winner will serve the final two years of the term Cochran started. Candidates run without party labels in Mississippi special elections. If a runoff is needed, it will be Nov. 27.
Hyde-Smith said Tuesday that she is campaigning while learning to do her new job. She praised a tax cut package that Republicans pushed into law before she went to Washington.
"I just cannot say enough about the tax cuts — from the corporate tax going from 35 percent to 21 percent," Hyde-Smith said. "I've talked to business owners in Mississippi who have actually given raises, so I do think it's helping a lot of families here."
Wicker said that even with tax cuts, "we're going to protect Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security — those three mandatory programs that so many people depend on, that my dad depends on, that we'll all depend on some day."
Wicker said tax cuts would not be a reality if Democrats were in control. He also said the partisan balance determines who can be confirmed to judicial posts: "The majority in the United States Senate means everything if you want a conservative Supreme Court."
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