Republicans swiftly and unanimously elected Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee Senate majority leader for the 97th Congress, which convenes in January. Senator Baker, a three-term moderate, was unopposed as GOP senators met to pick their leaders for the first Republican Senate in more than a quarter of a century. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, also considered a moderate, was unanimously elected assistant majority leader.
In what was billed as the major contest of the elections, conservative Sen. james McClure of Idaho bested Sen. H. John Heinz III, a liberal-moderate from Pennsylvania, for the chairmanship of the Republican Conference. The selection of Senator McClure was an indication that conservatives -- after not running a candidate against Mr. Baker or Mr. Stevens -- wanted to get one of their own into the leadership structure.