WASHINGTON — Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., on Tuesday announced a challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the top Republican leadership job in the Senate.
"The status quo is broken and big change is needed," Scott said in a tweet. "It’s time for new leadership in the Senate that unites Republicans to advance a bold conservative agenda. That’s why I’m running to be the Senate Republican Leader."
Scott first announced the move at a meeting of GOP members, a spokesman said.
McConnell has held the leadership position since 2007, making him the longest-serving GOP leader in Senate history. Senate Republicans are scheduled to hold their leadership vote Wednesday; but some Republicans had been urging McConnell to delay the elections until after the Georgia Senate runoff next month.
Going into the midterm elections last week, McConnell appeared to have a firm grasp on the leader’s job and Republicans appeared poised to take control of the Senate. But Democrats were able to flip control of a seat in Pennsylvania, effectively blocking Republicans from wresting the chamber away.
"Like each of you, I am deeply disappointed by the results of the recent election," Scott told colleagues in a letter Tuesday. As chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, he has faced criticism after the party’s lackluster midterms performance.
"Despite what the armchair quarterbacks on TV will tell you, there is no one person responsible for our party’s performance across the country," Scott said in the letter. "I know there is no shortage of people who are eager to point fingers and assign blame here in Washington, but I won’t be one of them. It’s unproductive and a massive waste of time."
Scott's challenge was first reported by Politico.
Scott announced his decision after he met privately with Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah to discuss a challenge to McConnell.
Scott and McConnell have long feuded over strategy and vision for the Republican caucus. McConnell has long been the subject of ire from former President Donald Trump, who has campaigned aggressively to oust him as leader. McConnell blamed Trump for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
McConnell said at a news conference later Tuesday that he was confident he had enough support to keep his position.
"I think it’s pretty obvious we may or may not be voting [for Senate leadership] tomorrow," he said. "But I think the outcome is pretty clear. I want to repeat again: I have the votes. I will be elected. The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later."
He also brushed off blame for Republicans' midterm performance. "We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party and leadership roles is that they are involved in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks, and it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters," he said.
For some members, it’s an uncomfortable spot to be in.
“I don’t have any comments,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said when he was asked about Scott’s challenge and whether he plans to support McConnell.
Scott said in his letter to GOP colleagues: "I understand that I won’t gain the support of every member of our Conference, but we all have a clear choice to make. If you simply want to stick with the status quo, don’t vote for me."