Washington — Florida Sen. Rick Scott is challenging Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for the role of Senate Republican leader, he announced Monday, bringing a simmering feud between the two spilling out into the open.
Scott, the current chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), detailed the rationale for his bid for GOP leader in a letter to colleagues, writing that believes a change in the leadership ranks is needed.
“We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against. I do not believe we can simply continue to say the Democrats are radical, which they are. Republican voters expect and deserve to know our plan to promote and advance conservative values,” Scott wrote. “We need to listen to their calls for action and start governing in Washington like we campaign back at home. There is a Republican Party that is alive and well in communities across America. It is time there is one in Washington, D.C., too.”
McConnell and Scott clashed for months over the party’s strategy heading into the midterm elections. McConnell previously criticized a policy proposal put forward by Scott regarding Social Security and Medicare that became the subject of dozens of Democratic attack ads targeting GOP candidates.
The Florida senator’s attempt to unseat McConnell, which is almost certain to fall short, comes after he oversaw an election cycle as chair of the NRSC in which Republicans failed to reclaim Senate control from Democrats. With Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s projected win over GOP challenger Adam Laxalt in Nevada, Democrats secured the 50 seats they needed to maintain their hold of the Senate.
Democrats now have an opportunity to pick up one seat with Georgia’s Senate race between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP nominee Herschel Walker heading to a runoff election next month.
But the weaker-than-expected performance by Republicans in the midterm elections for both the House and Senate, as well as the campaign extended until Georgia’s Dec. 6 contest, led some GOP senators to push for a delay in their leadership elections, currently scheduled for Wednesday.
McConnell has served as the Republican leader in the Senate since 2006, and he has largely been praised for his role leading GOP members in the upper chamber. In 2016, McConnell was instrumental in holding open the Supreme Court seat left vacant following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell’s decision not to hold a confirmation hearing for then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, paved the way for former President Donald Trump to appoint Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court. McConnell has also received credit for his work in the confirmations of Trump’s other two Supreme Court nominees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, which solidified the high court’s 6-3 conservative majority.
But Trump himself has recently soured on McConnell, who criticized the former president for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump claimed on his social media platform Truth Social that the disappointing election result for Republicans was McConnell’s fault, writing he “blew the Midterms” and “everyone despises him.”