McConnell wins Senate leadership election, overcomes Scott challenge

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., won re-election as Senate GOP leader, facing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and is setting himself up to become the party’s longest-serving leader. the history of the Senate.

McConnell won a vote that broke 37-10 and saw one senator abstain, according to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex.

Cruz and several other GOP senators called for the vote to be postponed until after the Georgia Senate runoff on Dec. 6, but a motion by Cruz to do so failed 32-16 ahead of the GOP leader’s vote.

“I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the vote, when asked if he would consider stepping aside after breaking the record of the longest serving party leader in Senate history, Sen. Mike Mansfield , late D-Mont.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday he has the votes to remain leader of the Senate GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday he has the votes to remain leader of the Senate GOP.
(Bloomberg)

Scott announced his candidacy for Republican leader at a caucus luncheon on Tuesday and pitched himself as a candidate to change the way Senate Republicans operate.

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“If you simply want to stick with the status quo, don’t vote for me,” he said in a letter to senators.

Scott did not win the election, but Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who has been one of his most vocal supporters, said he believed Scott’s candidacy could have changed the way Republicans operate.

“I told leader McConnell that this is the healthiest enterprise since I’ve been here in terms of caucus discussion,” Braun said. “With Rick in my mind he brought it out to where we discussed it.”

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Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., challenged Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the Senate GOP leadership.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., challenged Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the Senate GOP leadership.
(Joseph A. Wulfsohn/Fox News Digital)

Braun added: “I think it’s going to make sure that 50 members succeed, depending on where we are, that all of us feel like we’re part of the process. And I think that’s healthy.”

“Are we going to continue to fall in to the Democrats? I hope the answer is no. And I hope the leadership will think twice after this,” said Senator Josh Hawley, R-My.

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Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., a more moderate senator considered a leadership ally, said he also believes there will be changes from McConnell. But Cramer said the vote remains a reminder of McConnell’s political support.

“I think it validates the leader in a big way,” he said. “He clearly listened, it is clear that he is willing to follow our lead.”

Cramer indicated that he did not appreciate some rhetoric from Scott in recent days, who has attacked McConnell and other Republicans for voting for bipartisan bills, such as the 2021 infrastructure bill.

“I was frustrated that some members would not just trash it, but trash those of us who supported it,” Cramer said. “You are entering into my business, my state, what is good for my conscience and my constituents.”

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“When you are talking about what we need to do together, be careful not to talk about the things we need to agree with me together,” he said.

Still, Cramer said Wednesday’s discussion was helpful in airing members’ frustrations and that such legislation could lead to a “better committee process.”

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The leadership election comes at a tense time for Republicans, who are reeling from weak midterm elections. Despite a bad economy and favorable historical trends, they took only a small majority in the House and failed to win the Senate.

Former President Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential run on Tuesday night, which will raise plenty of uncomfortable questions for Republicans for months to come. Trump has repeatedly called for McConnell’s removal from office.

Beyond McConnell, Senator John Thune, RS.D., will shepherd the GOP leadership team for the next Congress; Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., as conference chairman; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, as policy chair; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., as congressional vice chair; and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., as chairman of the Republican National Seniors Committee.

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The new Congress begins Jan. 3. The Georgia runoff will determine whether the chamber remains evenly divided 50-50, or whether Democrats will have a 51-49 majority.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Kelly Phares and Caroline McKee contributed to this report.

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