WASHINGTON (AP) — Senator Mitch McConnell was re-elected as Republican leader on Wednesday, criticizing a challenge from Florida Senator Rick Scott, the GOP Senate campaign chief, after a disappointing performance in the midterm elections who kept control of the Senate with the Democrats.
McConnell, of Kentucky, easily turned down Scott’s challenge in the first-ever attempt to oust him after many years as GOP leader. The vote was 37-10, senators said, with another senator voting. McConnell is poised to become the Senate’s longest-serving leader when the new Congress convenes next year.
“I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the nearly four-hour private meeting. He said he was “quite proud” of the result, but acknowledged the work ahead. “I think everyone at our conference agrees that we want to do our best.”
At a GOP senatorial luncheon on Tuesday, Scott and McConnell had traded what colleagues said were “candid” and “lively” barbs. Among the 10 Republican senators who joined the uprising against McConnell and voted for Scott on Wednesday were some of the most conservative figures and those who aligned themselves with former President Donald Trump.
“Why do I think he won?” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., among McConnell’s opponents. “Because the conference didn’t want to change course.”
The turmoil in the Senate GOP is similar to the uproar among House Republicans in the aftermath of the midterm elections, which divided the party over Trump’s hold on the party. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination of colleagues to run for House Speaker, with Republicans taking the House majority on Wednesday, but he faces fierce opposition from a core group of Republicans on the right who are unconvinced of his leadership.
Scott said in a statement that while the results of today’s election were not what we hoped, this is far from the end of our fight to make Washington work.
Retiring to the old Senate chamber of the Capitol for the secret ballot, the senators first considered a motion by an ally of Scott, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, to postpone the votes for leaders until after the second round of the presidential election. December 6 in Georgia. between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock who will determine the final composition of the Senate.
Cruz said it was a “hearty discussion, but a serious discussion” about how minority Republicans can work effectively.
A total of 48 GOP new and returning senators voted. Retiring Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse missed the vote to be home after his office said his wife was recovering from a non-threatening seizure.
Senators also elected the other GOP leadership posts. The ranks of McConnell’s top posts held steady, with Sen. John Thune, RS.D., as GOP whip, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., in third place as chairman of the GOP conference. Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana was chosen to take over Scott’s campaign operation.
Scott’s challenge, urged by Trump to confront McConnell, escalated a long-simmering feud between Scott, who led the Senate Republican campaign this year, and McConnell over the party’s approach to trying to regain the Senate majority. to win.
Troubled conservatives in the chamber have lashed out at McConnell’s handling of the election, as well as his iron grip on the Senate Republican caucus.
Trump has been urging the party to dump McConnell since the Senate Majority Leader delivered a scathing speech blaming then-President Trump for the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
McConnell has pushed back vigorously, blaming the Republican problems for what he has called “candidate quality” after many of his favored candidates were replaced on the ballot by Trump-backed Republicans.
McConnell said Republicans fielded the kinds of candidates that “scared” independent and moderate voters.
Those voters believed that “we didn’t handle issues responsibly and that we spent too much time on negativity and attacks and chaos,” McConnell said earlier this week. “They were scared.”
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who led the push to delay the election with Cruz, spoke for some time Wednesday, as did ally Senator Mike Lee of Utah, according to people familiar with the closed meeting. The question I asked both leadership candidates is, ‘What issues are we willing to fight on,'” Cruz said.
One of the many reasons Scott listed for taking on a challenge is that the Republicans compromised too much with the Democrats during the last Congress — with bills that President Joe Biden has deemed successes and that the Democrats won in the election of 2018. have adopted 2022.
The feud between Scott and McConnell has been seeping in for months, reaching a boiling point as the election results trickled to show that there would not be a Republican Senate wave as Scott predicted, according to senior Republican strategists not empowered to discuss internal issues by name and insisted on anonymity.
The feud began not long after Scott took over the party committee following the 2020 election. Many in the party saw his ascension as an attempt to build his national political profile and donor network ahead of a possible 2024 presidential bid. focused less on the candidates standing for election.
Then came Scott’s release of an 11-point plan early this year that called for a modest tax increase for many of the lowest paid Americans while opening the door to cutting Social Security and Medicare, which McConnell quickly rejected, even as he declined . offer your own agenda.
The feud was driven in part by fraying confidence in Scott’s leadership, as well as the committee’s poor finances, which a senior Republican adviser said was $20 million in debt.
Democrats have postponed their internal elections until after Thanksgiving.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at And for more information on the issues and factors at play during the midterm elections.