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WASHINGTON — A fight is brewing between Senate Republicans as they prepare to pick their leader for the next Congress — and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is among a loud cohort voicing their discontent with leadership after the party failed to retake control of the upper chamber in the midterms.
Over the past week, Cruz has fumed over the party’s performance in the midterms, taking aim at GOP leadership in the Senate over what he portrays as electoral missteps. Cruz argued the party’s leadership wasn’t nearly aggressive enough in the many competitive Senate races.
“Just like with a football coach, where you would fire a football coach if the team loses when they should’ve won — we should’ve won,” Cruz said on his podcast Monday, adding he’s “so pissed off, I cannot even see straight.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was expected to easily glide into another term helming his colleagues at the party conference meeting scheduled for Wednesday. But U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, introduced an eleventh-hour challenge to McConnell’s bid, arguing current leadership was not leading the conference on a sufficiently aggressive course. Scott, who is currently the Republican Senatorial Committee chair, the party’s fundraising arm, announced his bid for the leadership during the conference’s weekly Tuesday meeting.
“(Voters) are begging us to tell them what we will do when we are in charge. Unfortunately, we have continued to elect leadership who refuses to do that and elicits attacks on anyone that does,” Scott wrote in a letter to his colleagues obtained by the Tribune. “That is clearly not working and it’s time for bold change.”
Outside of a party lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Scott said he’s “not satisfied with the status quo.”
McConnell has been the leader of Senate Republicans since 2007.
Cruz pushed for leadership elections to be delayed until the final Senate count was settled.
Democrats were projected to retain control of the Senate on Saturday after Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nevada, won reelection in her nail-biter race. A runoff race in Georgia will determine if Republicans hold 49 or 50 Senate seats.
Following Scott’s announcement, Cruz continued to call for leadership elections to be delayed.
“The reason we should delay the vote is to have a robust discussion within our conference about what leadership entails,” Cruz said. He escalated later Tuesday night, saying on Twitter that he would make a motion to delay the Senate Republican leadership elections until after the Georgia runoff.
Cruz did not answer a question about whether he had urged Scott to challenge McConnell.
After Scott’s announcement, McConnell said he welcomed the competition and was adamant he had the votes to maintain his leadership spot.
“I don’t own this job. Anyone in the conference is certainly entitled to challenge me,” McConnell said.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, told reporters Tuesday that his priority is one Senate race that hasn’t yet been decided.
“I think the most important thing we can do is get these differences behind us and focus on the Georgia runoff,” he said.