WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Mitch McConnell won re-election as Republican leader on Wednesday, overruling a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the GOP Senate campaign leader criticized for his party’s midterm election failures. .
Retreating to the Capitol’s former Senate Chamber for the private vote, Republicans had faced infighting after a disappointing performance in last week’s election that maintained control of the Senate with Democrats.
McConnell, of Kentucky, easily brushed off Scott’s challenge in the first-ever attempt to oust him after many years as GOP leader. Senators initially rejected an attempt by McConnell’s critics to delay a leadership pick until after Georgia’s second-round senatorial election next month.
The unrest is similar to the uproar among House Republicans in the aftermath of the midterm elections that left the party divided over former President Donald Trump’s hold on the party. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has won his colleagues’ nomination to run for House Speaker as Republicans are poised to grab a majority in the House, but he faces a backlash. strong opposition from a core of right-wing Republicans unconvinced of his leadership.
On Wednesday, senators first considered a motion by Scott’s ally, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to delay leadership votes until after Georgia’s Dec. 6 election runoff between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. determine the final composition of the Senate. Walker was eligible to vote in the leadership election, but was not required to be present.
There were 49 GOP senators scheduled to vote, including senators newly elected to town this week but not yet sworn in and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was eligible even though her run against Republican Kelly Tshibaka did not not yet been called. No more than 10 Republican senators, among some of the most conservative figures and those aligned with Trump, were expected to join the revolt.
Senators also elected other members of the Republican leadership. The Democrats have postponed their internal elections after Thanksgiving.
McConnell’s top ranks are expected to remain stable, with Sen. John Thune, RS.D., as GOP whip, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., in third place as chairman of the GOP conference. GOP. Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines was to take over Scott’s campaign operation.
Scott’s challenge, who has been urged by Trump to take on McConnell, has deepened a long-running feud between Scott, who led the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm this year, and McConnell over the party’s approach to trying to recover the majority in the Senate.
“If you just want to stick with the status quo, don’t vote for me,” Scott said in a letter to Senate Republicans posing as a protest vote against McConnell.
Wayward conservatives in the chamber have denounced McConnell’s handling of the election, as well as his iron grip on the Senate Republican caucus.
Trump has been pushing for the party to drop McConnell ever since the Senate leader delivered a scathing speech blaming President Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Yet it represented an unusual direct challenge to McConnell’s authority. He would become the longest-serving Senate leader in history when the new Congress convenes next year.
Scott and McConnell exchanged what their colleagues described as “candid” and “animated” barbs during a lengthy private lunch of GOP senators on Tuesday that lasted several hours. They argued mid-term, the quality of the GOP candidates who ran and their differences on fundraising.
Over lunch, about 20 senators presented their individual cases for the two men. Some members have directly challenged Scott in McConnell’s defense, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who questioned the Florida senator’s handling of the campaign arm, according to a person familiar with the meeting and on condition of anonymity. to talk about it.
Among the many reasons Scott listed for mounting a challenge is that Republicans compromised too much with Democrats in the last Congress – producing bills that President Joe Biden considered successes and that Democrats ran in the 2022 elections.
The feud between Scott and McConnell has been going on for months and came to a head as election results showed there would be no Republican wave in the Senate as Scott predicted, according to top Republican strategists who were not authorized to discuss internal issues by name and insisted on anonymity.
The feud began shortly after Scott took over the party committee following the 2020 election. Many in the party viewed his rise as an effort to build his national political profile and donor network ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2024. Some were angered by the committee’s promotional material that was heavy on Scott’s own biography, while focusing less on the candidates running for office.
Then came Scott’s release of an 11-point plan earlier this year, which called for modest tax increases for many of the lowest-paid Americans, while opening the door to cuts in Social Security and of Medicare, which McConnell quickly repudiated even as he refused to offer his own agenda.
The feud was prompted in part by frayed confidence in Scott’s leadership, as well as the poor finances of the committee, which was $20 million in debt, according to a senior Republican consultant.
Follow AP coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the midterm issues and factors at play.
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