Some Senate Republicans over the weekend voiced support for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s reelection as GOP leader, while others pushed to delay Wednesday’s leadership vote until after Georgia’s Senate race is decided.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) both said Sunday they support McConnell’s reelection despite a letter circulating among Senate colleagues Friday to postpone the leadership vote.
“I think I’m actually going to support Mitch,” Cassidy told Chuck Todd on NBC News’s Meet the Press. “I think Mitch kind of pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for candidates who, for whatever reason, were having a difficult time raising the money,” he said. “Going forward, Mitch will be our leader.”
Cotton voiced support for McConnell seemingly due to a lack of a challenger to McConnell’s reelection bid.
“I don’t see why we would delay the election, since all five or six of our leadership elections are uncontested,” Cotton told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s News’s Face the Nation. “You know, the great wrestling champion Ric Flair used to say, ‘To be the man, you gotta beat the man.’ And so far, no one’s had the nerve to step forward and challenge Sen. McConnell.
“So, I support Sen. McConnell. I support the other slate of candidates for our leadership elections.”
Cotton’s and Cassidy’s support of McConnell is in contrast to the position of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who voiced opposition to McConnell’s reelection until after the Georgia Senate race has been decided.
“In light of [the Georgia senate] runoff, it would be appropriate to delay Senate leadership elections until we know who is in the Senate Republican Conference. I totally agree with Senator Ted Cruz that to do otherwise would be disrespectful to Herschel Walker,” he said.
Graham echoed many other Senate Republicans’ position of delaying the vote. So far, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Mike Lee (R-UT) have voiced opposition to holding leadership elections right away.
“We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not,” a Friday letter from GOP senators, signed by Johnson, Lee, and Scott, said. “We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024.”
Hawley, one of the most vocal opponents of holding a vote Wednesday, doubled down on Sunday, questioning whether GOP leadership is treating Republican Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker as “a full member” of the Senate.
“I don’t get the Senate GOP line on @HerschelWalker: Please, please win – but we won’t let you vote for leadership. Are you going to treat him like a full member of the Senate or not?” Hawley asked.
The interparty feud comes as McConnell is asking to be reelected on Wednesday after potentially losing more Senate seats than he had before the 2022 election. On Sunday, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters lost to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), giving Democrats control of the Senate. If Walker loses in Georgia in the runoff, Democrats would gain a seat.
McConnell has been criticized in recent weeks for his Senate campaign strategy. The McConnell-backed super PAC defunded Masters and New Hampshire’s Gen. Don Bolduc in the general election while funding pro-impeachment Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) against Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka. The Alaskan Senate race has yet to be called.
Civiqs polling showed Monday that just seven percent of voters view McConnell favorably, while 81 percent view him unfavorably.