By Burgess Everett – 9/16/14 @ 6:37 PM ET
Utah Sen. Mike Lee was elected on Tuesday by Senate Republicans to lead the Senate Steering Committee, the chamber’s conservative caucus.
Lee will succeed Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who chaired the committee for the past two years. The committee meets weekly on Wednesdays, huddles that usually include most Senate Republicans and are often close in scope to the party’s regular caucus meetings on Tuesday.
Lee, who’s developed a reputation as a conservative reformer and an occasional thorn in the side of party leaders, will now lead the agenda of those Wednesday lunches.
“The Senate Steering Committee will continue to develop and promote conservative solutions and facilitate vigorous discussion and debate on the issues that matter most to the country,” Lee said in a statement.
Both Lee and Toomey are up for reelection in 2016 — though under vastly different circumstances. Toomey will likely face a strong Democratic challenger in Pennsylvania, which President Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012, while Lee is facing reelection in Utah, one of the most Republican states in the country.
The panel’s chairmanship has been a stepping stone for conservatives to more prominence — its alumna include former Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who now heads the Heritage Foundation, and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a former Republican whip.