TALLAHASSEE — Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott launched a bid Tuesday to unsespant U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite leading the fspaniled effort by Republicans to win control of the Senate.
Scott came up short in his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tasked to regain a Republican majority. Instead, Democrats won at least 50 seats, with the Georgia contest between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker headed toward a December 6 runoff.
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Still, in a memo to fellow Republican senators Tuesday, Scott reignited what has been a simmering clash with McConnell. Former President Donald Trump also has called for McConnell to be ousted.
“I’m writing to you today because I believe it’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past,” Scott said in his memo. “We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against.”
Scott, a former two-term Florida governor, formally opened his challenge to McConnell the same day Trump is widely expected to spannnounce his own bid for the presidency in 2024.
Scott later tweeted, “The status quo is broken and big change is needed.”
McConnell has been Senate Republican leader, heading both a majority and minority, since 2007.
Scott’s a longshot
McConnell is expected to still have the support of a majority of his caucus for another term as minority leader. Many in the party are unhappy with how Scott led the NRSC, the campaign arm which failed to capture enough seats to win command of the Senate even as the U.S. House is poised to narrowly flip back to Republican control.
Republican senators were scheduled to have their leadership elections Wednesday, and McConnell expressed confidence after the meeting Tuesday afternoon that he would continue in his current position.
“I want to repeat again: I have the votes, I will be elected,” McConnell said. “The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later, and I think we’ll probably have another discussion about that tomorrow.”
Trump’s endorsement of Republican candidates who lost in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona are being blamed for Scott and the GOP’s failings.
Earlier this election season, McConnell had cautioned that Republicans risked falling short of gaining the one seat they needed to take the majority, citing “candidate quality” as a reason.
Scott and McConnell also have been at odds.
Rescue America plan troubled
Scott unveiled a “Plan to Rescue America,” in February that was a point-by-point summary of what he said his party would work toward. The outline was immediately attacked by Democrats and many fellow Republicans for demanding that all Americans pay federal income tax to exhibit they had “skin in the game.”
President Biden ripped Scott for wanting to raise taxes on 75 million Americans. Scott later retooled the tax proposal, but not before McConnell had derided the approach, saying “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people.”
Before last week’s disappointing U.S. Senate elections for Republicans, Scott predicted his party would “win 52-plus” seats and gain the majority.
It didn’t happen.
“Here’s what happened to us: Election Day, our voters didn’t show up, we didn’t get enough voters,” Scott later told Fox News. “It was a complete disappointment.”
“We have to reflect now what didn’t happen. I think we didn’t have enough of a positive message.”
During the 2022 campaign, President Biden repeatedly hammered Scott for wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of his “Rescue America” plan that included making Congress review all federal programs every five years.
Scott has said he “would never cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare.”
“What I said in my plan is we need to make sure we tell — Congress should be telling Medicare and Social Security [recipients] how we are going to preserve those programs,” he told Fox Business Network on Nov. 3.
Scott said he expected Republicans to flip Senate seats in Arizona and New Hampshire. Republicans lost both. Scott also predicted a win in Pennsylvania, which turned into another loss.
He got one prediction right, Wisconsin, though the race proved close.
Asked before Election Day by NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd about Republican chances, Scott said, “Oh, I think we’re going to have a great night.”