Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) removed Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) from the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday after the two lawmakers attempted to oust the veteran Republican leader.
Scott claimed during an interview with The Hill that McConnell “kicked” him off the Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over science, transportation, technology, and a host of interstate commerce issues. Scott reportedly learned of the decision in a text message and was “furious,” one source told the outlet, which added that other conservatives concur that the failed leadership bid was a major factor behind the removal.
“This is what happens when you challenge leadership,” he said in a statement to The Daily Wire. “It was McConnell’s decision to remove someone who has actually run businesses and ran the third largest state from a committee I’ve served on for four years. You’ll have to ask him why.”
Mike Lee’s communications director, Lee Lonsberry, told The Daily Wire that the lawmaker “would have liked to stay on as a member of the Commerce Committee, but this change won’t affect the good work he does for the people of Utah and the nation.” McConnell’s office declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Wire.
Scott launched his opposition campaign to McConnell following the midterm elections, during which Republicans were expected to see a robust majority in the House of Representatives and possibly clinch the majority in the Senate. Democrats instead gained one seat in the upper chamber as Republicans managed to win a razor-thin majority in the House.
In a letter to his colleagues sent days after the midterms, Scott said he was “deeply disappointed” by the results and added that Republican voters failed to see a concrete plan for governance from party leadership. He also cited concerns such as omnibus bills, excessive federal spending, and compromise deals with which most Republicans “disagree.”
“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,” he wrote. “I ask for your support in changing the direction of the Senate and rescuing America from the dangerous path Democrats have set it on.”
McConnell said in response to the challenge that he had the necessary votes to prevail and forecasted that he would be elected. “I don’t own this job. Anybody in the conference is certainly entitled to challenge me,” he added. “And I welcome the contest.”
While 10 senators, including Lee, voted for Scott, 37 voted for McConnell. “I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the vote, according to a report from the Associated Press, adding that he was “pretty proud” of the outcome.
The vote among Senate Republicans followed a similarly heated leadership contest among their counterparts in the House. Several members demanded that the next Speaker of the House should ensure greater representation of conservative-leaning members on important committees, pledge to limit expenditures, and prioritize holding “weaponized” government agencies accountable. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) eventually garnered enough Republican votes to assume control of the gavel.