Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sailed through a bid to retain his leadership position in the new legislative session, he did face more backlash from within his party than usual.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who serves as the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, launched a long-shot campaign to become the party leader, engaging in a reportedly tense discussion with McConnell during which he detailed a number of disagreements.
“I’m running for leader,” Scott said prior to the vote in November that secured McConnell’s position. “I’m not satisfied with the status quo and so I think we ought to have an option.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was privy to that conversation and told reporters: “Sen. Scott disagrees with the approach that Mitch has taken in this election and for the last couple of years, and he made that clear.”
The Kentucky Republican has encountered intraparty criticism based on, among other things, his apparent dissatisfaction with the quality of GOP candidates in last year’s midterm election and his support for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her re-election bid against conservative challenger Kelly Tshibaka.
McConnell’s decision to weigh in on the Alaska race led to that state’s Republican Party officially censuring him in October.
More recently, GOP leaders in another state have announced a push to similarly denounce the top Senate Republican.
As in Alaska, the Republican Party in New Hampshire took exception to McConnell’s opposition to the Senate candidate its voters nominated in the midterm primary race.
The state party advanced a resolution last week that accused him of failing “to support this candidate politically and financially through the end of the 2022 elections” and withdrawing “$5.6 million in television ads for Donald C. Bolduc’s [S]enate campaign to fund Lisa Murkowski.”
Several other complaints about McConnell’s leadership were included in the resolution to censure him, including his push for increased funding of the Ukrainian defense against invading Russian troops.
Even as Democrats ramp up U.S. support for the Ukrainian military, including through the planned delivery of high-tech tanks, many Republicans say the investment is not only depleting America’s military but could spark another world war.
McConnell has been a steadfast supporter of Ukrainian assistance, however, declaring last month that “providing assistance for Ukrainians to defeat the Russians is the number one priority for the United States right now according to most Republicans.”