McConnell re-elected GOP leader to the Senate, overcoming Scott’s challenge

Washington – Senate Republicans have re-elected Sen. Mitch McConnell for another term as Minority Leader, his office said, defeating a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida in a leadership battle that exposed divisions within of a party still reeling from a disappointing performance in the midterm elections.

GOP senators gathered for more than three hours on Wednesday to elect their leadership positions for the new Congress, which will sit in January. McConnell won 37 votes to Scott’s 10, with one senator voting “present,” said GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.

“This position is not mine. Anyone wishing to run for this position can feel free to do so,” McConnell told reporters after the vote. “I am in no way offended to have an opponent or to have a few votes in opposition.”

The Kentucky Republican said he was “proud” of the vote tally and said the meeting gave the GOP conference an opportunity to discuss their differences, as well as assess the midterm elections and what what was going to happen in the next competition.

“Everybody in our conference agrees that we want to do our best, finish the job in Georgia and focus on that for the next month,” McConnell said, referring to the Dec. 6 election runoff between the senator incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican. challenger Herschel Walker.

Some senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, have unsuccessfully sought to delay the leadership election until the results of the Georgia Senate race run-off are known. Sixteen senators voted to postpone the elections, against 32 who voted to go ahead, said a source familiar with the matter.

Senate GOP meets to vote on leadership roles
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gives a thumbs up as he leaves a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on November 16, 2022.

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In addition to re-electing McConnell as GOP leader, Republicans also elected Sen. John Thune of South Dakota for GOP whip, Barrasso as conference chair, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa as chairman of the Committee on Republican politics and Senator Steve Daines of Montana as the new president. of the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC), the campaign arm of the Senate GOP. None of the candidates faced opponents.

Scott, the incumbent NRSC chairman who has come under fire for the committee’s strategy in the midterm elections, said tuesday he would challenge McConnell for the role of Minority Leader because Republicans “have to start saying what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”

“Republican voters expect and deserve to know about our plan to promote and advance conservative values,” Scott wrote in a letter to his colleagues. “We need to heed their calls to action and start governing in Washington as if we were campaigning at home. There is a Republican Party that is alive and well in communities across America. have one in Washington, DC too.”

Following his failed bid, the Florida senator said the GOP conference can make progress in helping American families by working together to advance conservative policies.

“We must stand firm on our principles and be accountable to those who elected us to actually get things done that will benefit American families and protect our nation’s future prosperity,” Scott said in a statement. “Although today’s election results were not what we hoped for, it is far from the end of our fight to make Washington work.”

McConnell has been the Republican leader since 2006, leading the party through majority and minority stints. With his re-election to another leadership term, McConnell is poised to overtake Senator Michael Mansfield, the Democratic leader from 1961 to 1977, as the oldest party leader.

McConnell dismissed Scott’s challenge after a lengthy meeting of GOP senators on Tuesday, saying “the outcome is pretty clear.”

As head of the NRSC, Scott oversaw the failure of GOP efforts to win a majority in the Senate in last week’s midterm elections, and frequently clashed with McConnell over the message and the party campaign strategy. He is also an ally of former President Donald Trump, who encouraged Senate Republicans to oust McConnell following the election.

At Tuesday’s closed meeting, two Republican senators called for an audit of the NRSC and how it spent its resources, according to Politics. But Scott suggested in a statement that an audit was unnecessary and called on McConnell-aligned groups, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) and One Nation to be transparent with their spending.

“The NRSC has carried out an independent annual audit every year since at least 2014. When I took over, I immediately became aware that hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized and improper bonuses had been paid to outgoing staff after the loss of majority in 2020,” Scott said. “When that’s your starting point, you work very hard to make sure there are transparent processes and we’re more than happy to sit down with any caucus member to explain our expenses. We hope SLF and One Nation do the same.”

Tensions between the former president and McConnell came to a head after the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, which McConnell said Trump was “morally responsible” for instigating. Since then, Trump has frequently hurled insults at the Republican leader, calling him a “third rate” and an “old crow.”

Asset spear his third bid for the White House on Tuesday night from his South Florida estate at Mar-a-Lago. Asked about the former president’s last presidential campaign, McConnell said he plans to “stay out” of the 2024 Republican primary.

The clash between McConnell and Scott began shortly after the Florida Republican took over as NRSC leader and escalated after Scott posted an 11-point score. Plan “Save America”which has quickly become fodder for President Biden and Democrats as the midterm elections approach.

McConnell quickly rejected Scott’s plan, namely proposals forcing low-income Americans to pay federal income tax – thereby raising taxes on about 40% of Americans – and calling for the expiration of federal legislation after five years. The proposal was a giveaway for Democrats, who hammered Republicans for potentially putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.

“We won’t have on our agenda a bill that raises taxes for half the American people and takes away Social Security and Medicare within five years,” McConnell said in March. “It will not be part of a Republican majority agenda in the Senate.”

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