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After Epic Failure, Growing Chorus Of Senators Signals It’s Time For McConnell To Go

‘We need new leadership in that position,’ Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley told reporters.

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Updated Nov. 11.

After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sabotaged Republicans in the 2022 midterms — pulling spending from competitive GOP candidates such as Blake Masters and even actively spending money against state GOP-endorsed candidates like Alaska’s Kelly Tshibaka — a growing chorus of Republicans is signaling it’s time for McConnell’s tenure in Senate leadership to end.

Here are all the Republican senators and senators-elect who have so far indicated McConnell needs to go.

Josh Hawley

At a rally the day before Election Day, the soon-to-be senior senator from Missouri reportedly said, when asked who should lead the GOP in the Senate, “not Mitch McConnell.”

“I’m not sure if any other senator will run or not. Nobody’s indicated they would. But my view is that we need new leadership in that position,” he told reporters.

In an interview with RealClearPolitics on Friday, Hawley blamed McConnell and “Washington Republicanism” for Republicans’ lack of a clear midterm strategy. “I’m not going to support the current leadership in the party,” he reiterated. Hawley also slammed McConnell for caving to Democrats’ demands on a gun control bill and a climate spending wishlist “billed as infrastructure,” and for abandoning Republicans in key midterm races.

Marco Rubio

The Florida senator who earned a huge victory margin in his reelection bid took to Twitter on Friday to call for the “Senate GOP leadership vote next week” to be “postponed.”

“First we need to make sure that those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities & values of the working Americans (of every background) who gave us big wins in states like #Florida,” Rubio wrote.

Hawley amplified Rubio’s statement, adding, “Exactly right. I don’t know why Senate GOP would hold a leadership vote for the next Congress before this election is finished,” in reference to the runoff election between Republican Herschel Walker and Democrat Raphael Warnock scheduled for Dec. 6 in Georgia.

Rubio himself could make a strong candidate to challenge McConnell. “If a united GOP is a strong GOP, Rubio is clearly a solid candidate for Leader,” argues The Federalist Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway. “While an establishment figure in many good ways, he also embraces and is embraced by many America First folks, doesn’t have Mitch’s baggage of utterly despising voters, and is appealing and savvy.”

Cynthia Lummis

The Wyoming Republican highlighted Rubio’s call for a postponed vote, retweeting it with just the word “Second.”

Mike Lee

The Utah Republican, who just won reelection against independent challenger Evan McMullin, reportedly joined a letter along with Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and Florida’s Rick Scott calling for the GOP leadership vote to be postponed.

“We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024,” the letter argues. “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.”

Ron Johnson

Johnson was calling GOP leadership into question before signing onto the letter with Lee and Scott. In an op-ed published the day after the election in The Wall Street Journal, the newly reelected Wisconsin senator fueled speculation that he would support a challenge to McConnell’s leadership. “Rank-and-file members should vote only for leaders who commit to passing a budget that drives a fiscally conservative appropriation process,” he wrote, after McConnell supported Democrats’ bloated “infrastructure” bill and pushed for spending even more of Americans’ tax dollars on Ukraine.

“We simply can’t let that happen,” Johnson concluded of “Republicans return[ing] to business as usual.”

Rick Scott

The Florida senator, who has been floated as a potential challenger to McConnell for Senate leadership, chastened McConnell back in September when the minority leader complained about Republican “candidate quality” in the midterms.

“When you complain and lament that we have ‘bad candidates,’ what you are really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who chose them,” Scott wrote in an op-ed. He also used his role as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee to put money behind GOP candidates that McConnell’s super PAC abandoned.

On NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Scott refused to rule out a challenge to McConnell. “I’m not focused on anything except getting a majority Tuesday night,” he said.

Ted Cruz

The Texas senator called for postponing the Senate leadership vote late Friday afternoon. “It makes no sense for Senate to have leadership elections before GA runoff. We don’t yet know whether we’ll have a majority & Herschel Walker deserves a say in our leadership,” he said.

“Critically, we need to hear a specific plan for the next 2 yrs from any candidate for leadership,” Cruz added, insinuating discontentment with McConnell’s current leadership and a willingness to support a challenge to the minority leader.

Lindsey Graham

The South Carolina Republican said back in January that he wouldn’t support McConnell unless the minority leader could work with former President Donald Trump and put forth an “America First agenda.”

“Here’s the question: Can Senator McConnell effectively work with the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump?” Graham told Sean Hannity of Fox News. “I’m not going to vote for anybody that can’t have a working relationship with President Trump, to be a team, to come up with an America First agenda … because if you can’t do that, you will fail.”

Eric Schmitt

Schmitt, whom voters elected to be Missouri’s newest senator on Tuesday, said in July that “I think we need new leadership in the Senate.”

“Mitch McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1985. I think the party’s priorities changed pretty dramatically. And I don’t think he’s kept up with that,” Schmitt said, citing McConnell’s failures to oppose Democrats’ “infrastructure” and gun bills.

“I’ve been endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Mike Lee. I’d love to see one of them run. I would support that,” he added. “Mitch McConnell hasn’t endorsed me and I don’t endorse him for leadership in the Senate.” Earlier this week, Schmitt confirmed he “stands by” those sentiments.

J.D. Vance

The newest senator from Ohio refused to commit to backing McConnell for Senate leadership in a town hall hosted by Fox News on Nov. 1.

“I’m certainly not voting for Chuck Schumer, that’s my view,” Vance responded when asked if he would support McConnell for leader if Republicans took the majority. “If Mitch McConnell is the only person that runs, that makes it a very easy decision, OK. We’ll see what happens when I get to Washington.”


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