Mitch McConnell Easily Wins Reelection As Senate GOP Leader
Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Wednesday easily won reelection as Senate GOP leader, fending off a conservative challenge led by Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.).
The final vote was 37-10, with one Republican voting “present.”
The closed-door, secret-ballot vote was held in the Old Senate Chamber, an ornate semicircular room in the Capitol where lawmakers met prior to the Civil War.
A vote to delay the leadership elections until after next month’s Georgia Senate runoff was defeated, 32-16.
The conference members then voted for McConnell to lead them again, which will make him the longest-serving Senate party leader when the new Congress convenes in January.
“I don’t own this job,” McConnell said afterward. “Anybody who wants to run for it can feel free to do so. So I’m not in any way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition.”
“I’m pretty proud of 37 to 10,” he added.
Scott announced Tuesday that he would take on McConnell for the seat, arguing that “the status quo is broken and big change is needed.” His complaints about GOP leadership followed months of feuding with McConnell over campaign strategy that devolved into open warfare after Democrats maintained control of the Senate last week.
Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which oversees the Senate GOP’s campaigns, argued in a letter to colleagues that they need to start being “far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past. We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against.”
Unlike McConnell, Scott has detailed plans to overhaul entitlement programs and has embraced extreme candidates endorsed by Donald Trump. McConnell, meanwhile, has clashed with the former president, who in turn has responded by calling for McConnell’s impeachment.
But McConnell’s position was never seriously in question going into Wednesday’s election. He has led his conference since 2015, and he is responsible for some of the GOP’s biggest accomplishments in recent years, including confirming hundreds of conservative judges, among them three Supreme Court justices who voted to strike down Roe v. Wade earlier this year.
“It validates him as leader in a really big way. ... It shows his strength,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who voted for McConnell, said of Wednesday’s election.
Even Sen. Mike Braun (Ind.), who backed Scott, gave McConnell credit for acknowledging the concerns raised about his leadership style.
“He listened and was receptive to the folks that he knows probably voted against him. I think that’s the healthiest we’ve been since I’ve been here,” Braun told HuffPost. “It’s not like anybody figured we’d have a new leader, but someone had to step up and make the statement that there were more than 10 of us that are probably not generally happy with the amount of input any one senator has.”
Scott was a curious choice for taking on McConnell. His` larger ambitions aside, the Florida Republican just oversaw a series of humiliating Senate GOP defeats in the midterm elections, with candidate quality being a serious problem.
“If you’re going to assess blame for election losses, I don’t know how you trade in the leader for the chairman of the NRSC,” Cramer mused to reporters on Tuesday.
Several high-profile Trump-backed Senate candidates lost last week, including Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Blake Masters in Arizona and Adam Laxalt in Nevada.
Under Scott, the NRSC took a hands-off approach to GOP primaries, embracing those candidates in the general election. McConnell-allied groups took the opposite tack, seeking initially to boost more traditional establishment-type Republicans.
“We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party, in leadership roles, is that they’re causing chaos, negativity, excessive attacks. And it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters,” McConnell said of the midterm election losses on Tuesday.