"I'm honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to help lead our caucus during such a critical time for this country," Cornyn said in a statement immediately after the vote.
Cornyn acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead for the country, "beginning with the looming fiscal cliff" -- the term used to describe a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 if Congress fails to take action to prevent it.
But lawmakers in both major political parties largely failed to work together in President Obama's first term.
In sizing up the results from last week's election night, Brian Smith, an associate professor of behavioral sciences at St. Edwards University said the two parties had moved even further apart ideologically.
"The Republicans have moved to the right in the Senate and the Democrats have also moved to the left," Smith said. "And that's going to make it difficult for anybody to get anything done in the Senate."
Cornyn said he knows what's in store. "I am optimistic the urgency of the moment will bring members of both parties together to avert what would be an economic disaster."
Cornyn had served as the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman through two election cycles -- a role that required him to ensure that Republicans were elected to the Senate. Because Democrats maintained a Senate majority through the election, some had questioned if another senator would challenge Cornyn for whip.
But Cornyn ran unopposed.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., took Cornyn's place as NRSC chairman during the leadership election Wednesday morning.
As minority whip, Cornyn will be second-in-command behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Cornyn's job will be to help outline the GOP's national priorities and to make sure his Republican colleagues support party leadership and vote accordingly.
He replaces retiring Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
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