National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (Fla.) announced during a closed-door Senate Republican Conference meeting Tuesday afternoon that he will challenge Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) for his job as top Senate GOP leader.
Scott’s spokesman, McKinley Lewis, confirmed the leadership challenge, which caught many Senate Republicans by surprise.
The Florida senator, who currently chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, laid out his case to become next Senate GOP leader in a three-page “Dear Colleague” letter circulated Tuesday.
“I believe it’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute that we have been in the past. We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against,” he wrote.
He promised that if elected leader he would “never surprise you with legislation and ask that you vote on something you haven’t had an opportunity to review.”
He also pledged “to always work to be transparent with each of you and to bring the conference together” and to “lead the conference in developing a positive, aspirational agenda that outlines our legislative goals and what Senate Republicans stand for.”
“I humbly ask for your vote as your next Republican Leader,” he concluded.
Scott had contemplated announcing his leadership bid last week but decided not to after Republicans failed to capture the Senate majority on Election Day.
But Scott gained more momentum over the past week after a group of Senate Republican conservatives, including Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ted Cruz (Texas), called for the leadership elections, which are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, to be postponed until after the Georgia Senate runoff on Dec. 6.
The Florida Republican has support from several outside GOP groups, which met with senior Senate staff and a senior McConnell aide Tuesday morning, to renew the call to delay the leadership election until next month.
A group of conservatives called on Senate and House leaders in an open letter to delay leadership elections until the results in the Georgia Senate race and several House races where ballots are still being counted are known.
“It was explicitly made known by both groups and leaders that McConnell should delay the leadership election,” said a source familiar with the meeting.
The source said McConnell’s staff was “put over the fire over this.”
“There was obvious frustration, there was a lot of criticism in the room regarding Leader McConnell’s position” on passing an omnibus spending package at the end of the year, which the GOP leader appears to support, and the GOP’s leadership’s “belittling” of GOP senators who have called for a delay in the leadership election, the source reported.
Scott, Lee and Cruz penned an op-ed for Fox News in September calling on Republican leaders to pass a stop-gap spending measure lasting into next year so that House Republicans, who will likely be in the majority in 2023, can have more say in negotiating the omnibus spending package.
Updated 3:44 p.m.