Roy Blunt wins GOP leadership post

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) (C) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listen during a news briefing after the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Dec. 13, 2011.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a longtime lawmaker on Capitol Hill, beat tea-party-supported Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in a secret ballot today to become vice chairman of the Republican Conference, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The fifth-ranking spot in the Republican caucus became available when Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced that he would give up his third-ranking position as chairman of the Republican Conference at the end of the year to focus on lawmaking.

More from GlobalPost: Lamar Alexander quits GOP leadership

In uncontested races, GOP senators elected Sen. John Thune of South Dakota to replace Alexander as chairman of the Republican Conference and made Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, the fourth-most senior post, Politico reported. Since both Thune and Barrasso moved up in the ranks, the No. 5 spot opened up.

While the voting was by secret ballot, two Senate sources told Politico that Blunt won 25-22.

According to The Associated Press:

The Blunt-Johnson race was considered symbolically important, a test of tea party clout a year after the libertarian-leaning movement helped drive Republicans into the House majority. Blunt is one of the most established Washington Republicans and controls what is widely considered the best GOP fundraising network of anyone in the party not running for president.

Blunt spent 14 years in the House, including in GOP leadership posts, before joining the Senate in January, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In contrast, Johnson is a plastics manufacturer who only recently entered politics, Politico reported; he also joined the Senate this January.