Republicans Vow to Challenge Mitch McConnell for GOP Senate Leader

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen before meeting with incoming Republ
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Republican senators on Tuesday promised to challenge Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for GOP Senate leader during Wednesday’s scheduled leadership vote, potentially marking the first time McConnell would receive a “no” vote in his tenure as leader.

A gang of Senate Republicans on Friday tried to postpone the election but McConnell’s election lieutenant, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), has repeatedly stated the election will occur as planned.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated Tuesday that if McConnell holds the election before the Georgia Senate race is decided, they will object to McConnell’s reelection.

“If the excuse is they are uncontested, they will be contested. I have no doubt about that. If nobody else contests, I’ll contest,” Johnson told a Politico reporter.

Cruz echoed the same strategy. “If leadership refuses to delay the election, if leadership tries to ram through an election tomorrow morning, I think it is extremely likely it will be a contested election,” Cruz said. “That you will see one or more senators run against Mitch McConnell.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who has been rumored to be potential opposition to McConnell, said Tuesday he has not yet decided if he will challenge McConnell. “A lot of people have suggested I run and I’m not going to take anything off the table,” he told Politico.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 19: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walks off the Senate floor between votes at the U.S. Capitol on July 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. Senators are gathering for their weekly party policy luncheons while they are taking up legislation on domestic semiconductor production and other technology-related policies. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walks off the Senate floor between votes at the U.S. Capitol on July 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A source who had knowledge about leadership conversations between senators told the Hill that many Republicans see an opportunity to dislodge McConnell as leader.

“Sen. McConnell is pretty much under attack,” the source said. “It was explicitly made known by both groups and leaders that McConnell should delay the leadership election.”

Those opposed to McConnell include Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and perhaps Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
“I don’t know why we would need to delay but I mean, I’ve got questions myself for the leader and for Chairman and what not,” Cramer told the Washington Examiner.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the Heritage Foundation March 29, 2022, in Washington, DC. Rubio discussed the conflict in Ukraine and the challenges posed to the United States from China.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the Heritage Foundation March 29, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It is unknown if McConnell’s opposition has enough votes to defeat him, but Hawley predicted Tuesday McConnell does not have the needed majority support from Republican senators.

“If you want to be a majority party, clearly what we’re doing isn’t working. It hasn’t been working for a long time. And I think you look at independent voters … we gave them nothing,” Hawley told CNN. 
Incoming GOP senators will also have to decide if they will support McConnell. Sen. elect Eric Schmitt (R-MO) has previously stated he would not support McConnell. Additional GOP Senate newcomers include J.D. Vance (R-OH), Katie Britt (R-AL), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).
If McConnell is reelected Wednesday, he would likely become the longest serving Senate party leader in History.
Opposition to McConnell’s reelection arose after he failed to reclaim the Senate from Democrats during last week’s midterm elections.
Former President Donald Trump has blamed McConnell for Republican failure. “It’s Mitch McConnell’s fault,” Trump wrote on Truth Social on Sunday. “He blew the midterms, and everyone despises him.”

Monday polling revealed just seven percent of voters view McConnell favorably, while 81 percent view him unfavorably.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.