According to reporting from Politico, Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Lee, (R-UT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) have signed a letter in an effort to urge their fellow Republican senators to postpone leadership elections until after the Georgia runoff in early December. The push comes as the Senate GOP grapples with the reality that they may remain in the minority in the next Congress after a loss in Pennsylvania and close races in three other battleground states.
Ahead of the election, Republicans felt confident about winning control of the Senate, betting that voter discontent with inflation and crime would help them sail to victory.
“Holding leadership elections without hearing from the candidates as to how they will perform their leadership duties and before we know whether we will be in the majority or even who all our members are violates the most basic principles of a democratic process,” they wrote. “It is certainly not the way leadership elections should be conducted in the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
More senators appear to be on board with delaying the elections. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the party needs to have a better understanding of how all the elections played out before electing new Senate leadership for the next two years. “It makes no sense for Senate to have leadership elections before GA runoff. We don’t know whether we’ll have a majority & Herschel Walker deserves a say in our leadership,” he wrote on Twitter.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) also signaled support on Twitter to delay the Senate leadership elections. Hawley has said he will vote against McConnell as leader, telling RealClearPolitics in an interview that “Washington Republicanism” and the GOP leader’s decision not to offer an alternative vision hurt the party on Tuesday. Sen.-elect Eric Schmitt (R-MO) has said the Senate GOP needs new leadership.
“We need to have a broader direction of where we are going as a party,” said an adviser to GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, who declined to comment on whether the Florida senator will support McConnell as leader.
“The question is how fast will we get there. We will get there much faster if we talk about it now as opposed to waiting until Christmas and then the debt ceiling and ping ponging back and forth to random fights without a clear goal of what we are fighting for.”
An adviser to another Republican senator speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to reflect candidly on the situation said focusing on the leadership elections without all of the results finalized is problematic.
“The conference needs to reflect and do an autopsy of what exactly happened and what went wrong. They should not be electing the next leaders of the party. That makes absolutely no sense,” the adviser told the Washington Examiner.
Many don’t anticipate McConnell will lose his position in the leadership but has been a frequent target of the MAGA base. Earlier this week, former President Donald Trump slammed McConnell as a “lousy leader” in an interview with Fox News Digital and said he’d force Senate Republicans to replace McConnell as their leader if he wins the presidency in 2024.
Currently, the elections are expected to include McConnell as leader, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) as whip, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) as conference chairman, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) as policy committee chairwoman, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) as conference vice chairwoman. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is running to become the next Senate campaign chief.
Allies of the minority leader don’t believe McConnell’s job is in serious jeopardy. The Senate minority leader has been at the helm of the Senate GOP since 2007. He declared in early October that he has the votes to keep hold of his leadership post.
A spokesman for McConnell didn’t respond to a request for comment.