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Mitch McConnell Looks to Be Punishing Defectors

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There's been much chatter recently when it comes to House committee assignments, especially as Republicans appear to have the votes to block Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from serving on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is using committee assignments to send a message of his own. 


As Alexander Bolton reported for The Hill on Wednesday night, McConnell has pulled Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) off of the Commerce Committee. Scott, who had a disappointing stint as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman, ran against McConnell for his leadership position, a move supported by Lee.

While there was disappointment and blame in how McConnell handled the 2022 cycle as well, he nevertheless handily defeated Scott for the position with a vote of 37 to 10, becoming the longest-serving party leader in the Senate. And, while he claimed that he didn't take such a challenge personally, that doesn't appear to be the reality. 

Scott certainly doesn't think so, according to Bolton's report:

“McConnell got to pick. He kicked me off; he kicked Lee off,” Scott confirmed in an interview.  

Scott acknowledged that running against McConnell was the likely reason he was booted from the panel despite his relative seniority on the committee and experience running a major company. 

“I probably ran the biggest company almost any senator in the history of the country has ever run. I was governor of the third-biggest economy in the United States, Florida. I’ve got a business background,” Scott said, ticking off his credentials.  

But Scott and Lee have teamed up to challenge McConnell’s leadership of the GOP conference on fiscal and spending decisions, and Lee gave one of the nominating speeches for Scott’s bid to take over as GOP leader.


Making that burn even more intense is how Scott found out, which was through of a text message, which made him "furious," according to someone described as being "familiar with the episode." Scott was also informed that McConnell alone made the decision when he reportedly asked at a Senate Republican conference lunch.

As one Republican senator, who was not named, is quoted as saying with regards to Scott losing the committee assignment, "what did he expect?" 

An unnamed Republican aide, described as being "familiar with the behind-the-scenes jockeying over committee assignments," is also mentioned when it comes to a 'deal with it' kind of attitude, when it comes to pointing out Scott and Lee already have good committee assignments, and there were new incoming members wanting to be on the Commerce Committee.

The report mentions that freshman Sens. J.D. Vance (R-OH), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Eric Schmitt (R-MO) will now serve on the committee. 

Scott will serve on the Committee on Armed Services; the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; the Committee on the Budget; and the Special Committee on Aging. 


Lee, like Scott, will serve on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Special Committee on Aging. He's also going to serve on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, including as the ranking member on a subcommittee; the Committee on the Judiciary, where he also serves as the ranking member on a subcommittee; and the Joint Economic Committee. 

At the end of the day, though, while again, there are problems galore with McConnell's leadership and his support, or lack thereof, for certain candidates, if anyone was going to run against him, and it was hard to see who that would be, it probably should not have been Scott given how disappointing last November was. 

"The source noted that losing committee seats is an unfortunate consequence of losing a Republican Senate seat in the 2022 midterm election," Bolton closes his piece with when it comes to that Republican aide. 

While winning control of the Senate was always going to be more tricky than winning control of the House--which Republicans did narrowly do, days after Election Night--it was still considered feasible. Democrats not only held on, but they grew their ranks, as Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) replaced retiring Pat Toomey, a Republican. And, while there can be a conversations like fundraising as well as candidate quality and split-ticket voting, it was objectively not a good look for Sen. Scott to be seen vacationing on his yacht in Italy last August when he could and should have been doing more to help Republicans win. 


Luckily, 2024 is going to be a much more favorable year for Republicans when it comes to the Senate map, with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) serving as the new NRSC chairman. 

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