Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a rare challenge to his leadership in the Senate by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. After what many Republicans saw as an underwhelming performance in the midterm elections, some feel change at the top is necessary. Many believe McConnell’s mismanagement of GOP campaign funds led to losses in crucial swing states. McConnell reaffirmed that he has the votes to become majority leader once again.
Mark Moore; November 16, 2022
Sen. Mitch McConnell is facing a rare challenge to his Senate leadership from Sen. Rick Scott on Wednesday, as GOP congressional members exchange blame over their party’s underwhelming performance in the midterm elections.
Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the organization charged with electing Republicans to the chamber, mounted a bid to unseat McConnell after Democrats retained control of the chamber with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s victory over Adam Laxalt in Nevada.
The Florida Republican presented himself to the caucus as a protest vote over McConnell’s failure to win a majority.
“If you simply want to stick with the status quo, don’t vote for me,” Scott said in a letter to his GOP colleagues.
The vote is slated for Wednesday morning, but several senators are working to delay it until after the Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
McConnell, who will become the longest-serving Senate leader in history if he’s successful, was confident of victory.
“We may or may not be voting tomorrow, but I think the outcome is pretty clear,” McConnell said Tuesday. “I want to repeat again: I have the votes; I will be elected. The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later.”
The vote comes at a fraught time for Republicans after the weaker-than-expected showing in last Tuesday’s elections, when they failed to regain control of the Senate but are predicted to eke out a one-seat majority in the House.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader who faced blistering attacks from his Republican colleagues for his handling of the election after a highly anticipated “red wave” failed to develop, managed to survive a challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
He held off Biggs with a 188-31 vote among Republicans, but will have to amass 218 votes when the full House votes on Jan. 3.
The vote on McConnell also follows the announcement Tuesday evening by former President Donald Trump that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 — even though a number of lawmakers in the party urged him to hold off until after the Warnock-Walker contest in Georgia.
Trump throwing himself into the mix amid the ongoing discord threatens to create more conflict as Republicans begin to pick sides.
The 45th president is supporting Scott’s run against McConnell and has accused the minority leader of working to defeat candidates he backed in the midterm elections.
“I think it’s not good for the party when we air grievances publicly like this, especially when we still have the Dec. 6 election hanging in the balance,” a senator told the Washington Post.
At a party lunch on Tuesday, Republican senators traded recriminations over the midterms in talks described as “candid” and “lively.”
McConnell, at a news conference Tuesday, said Republicans regaining control of the Senate was never a given and blamed the quality of candidates for the disappointing results.
“We learned some lessons about this, and I think the lesson’s pretty clear,” McConnell said. “Senate races are different. Candidate quality, you recall I said in August, is important. In most of our states we met that test, in a few of them we did not.”
Scott, who has been feuding with McConnell over the direction of the party since taking over the NRSC in 2020, said voters are calling for “bold change.”
“[Republican voters] are begging us to tell them what we will do when we are in charge,” Scott said in the letter. “Unfortunately, we have continued to elect leadership who refuses to do that and elicits attacks on anyone that does. That is clearly not working and it’s time for bold change. The voters are demanding it.”
Photo: AP Photo