Prominent conservatives call for delay in GOP leadership elections

Patrick Semansky

More than 60 prominent conservatives, including Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and activist Ginni Thomas, are calling for House and Senate GOP leadership elections to be delayed until after the Dec. 6 Senate runoff in Georgia.

The request was made in an open letter to GOP lawmakers released Monday, just a day before House Republicans are set to hold their closed-door election to pick their leaders for the new Congress. Senate Republicans plan to hold their internal elections Wednesday.

Republicans have been trading blame with one another for their lackluster midterms performance, in which Democrats held on to control of the Senate and staved off big losses in the House in a year when many Republicans were predicting a “red wave.”

But so far, both the Senate and House GOP leaders — Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Kevin McCarthy of California — are pressing forward with elections this week.

“The Republican Party needs leaders who will confidently and skillfully present a persuasive coherent vision of who we are, what we stand for, and what we will do. Many current elections are still undecided. There should be no rushed leadership elections,” the conservative group wrote in their letter.

“Conservative Members of the House and Senate have called for the leadership elections to be delayed. We strongly urge both Houses of Congress to postpone the formal Leadership elections until after the December 6 runoff in Georgia and all election results are fully decided.”

Among those who signed the letter were David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth; former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the chair of the Conservative Partnership Institute; David N. Bossie, the president of Citizens United; Trump White House budget director Russ Vought, the president of the Center for Renewing America; Ginni Thomas, the president of Liberty Consulting and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Matt Schlapp, that chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference; Adam Brandon, the president of FreedomWorks; Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation; and former conservative Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.

So far, no one has formally stepped forward to challenge McConnell or McCarthy, but that could soon change.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., a former chairman of the far-right, Trump-aligned House Freedom Caucus, has reportedly been flirting with challenging McCarthy for speaker. Speaking to reporters Monday, Biggs would not confirm whether he was considering a bid but said "nobody has 218" votes for speaker. "And somebody is going to run tomorrow” against McCarthy, he said.

And Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the chairman of the Senate GOP's campaign arm this cycle, isn't closing the door on a challenge to McConnell for minority leader.

"A lot of people have called me to see if I would run,” Scott said Sunday on Fox News, adding, “I’m not going to take anything off the table."

A handful of other Republican senators — including Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah — also are calling for a delay.

"It would be insane if we re-elect the same leadership two days from now — if we say: 'Hey nothing happened, everything’s good. Keep rowing off the waterfall, crash into the rocks. Everything's awesome,'" Cruz said Monday on his podcast, "Verdict with Ted Cruz."

"Listen, if you have the No. 1 team in the nation and you get crushed and you get crushed and you get crushed, you know what happens? They fire the coach," he continued. "The idea that we would have leadership elections on Wednesday is insane."

Asked whether he thought he had enough support to retain the leadership, McConnell told reporters, "Of course."

McCarthy and McConnell have political incentives to move quickly. With conservative discontent brewing, any lengthy delay could create openings for possible challengers to build up support.

But not all Freedom Caucus members would line up behind Biggs if he took on McCarthy. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a staunch Trump ally who has clashed with McCarthy, said a conservative challenge to McCarthy would be “very risky” and “bad strategy” and claimed it could lead to a situation in which Democrats cut a deal with a handful of anti-Trump Republicans to elect Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as speaker.

“Do we want to see that challenge open the door to Nancy Pelosi handing the gavel to Liz Cheney? Is that what everybody really wants? Because I will not do it. There is no way in hell I will stand there and allow that to happen,” Greene said on Steve Bannon’s podcast, “War Room.”

On the other side of the aisle, President Joe Biden appears to support Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s continuing on as the top Democrat in the House should she decide to seek the post again.

“I hope you stick,” Biden told Pelosi, D-Calif., last week after the midterm elections, a Democratic aide confirmed Monday. The president's remarks were first reported by Politico.

NBC News has asked the White House for comment.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com