Washington Senate Republicans reelected Senator Mitch McConnell for another term as Minority Leader, his office said, defeating a challenge from Florida Senator Rick Scott in a leadership battle that exposed divisions in a party still reeling from a disappointing performance in mid-term elections.

GOP senators met for more than three hours on Wednesday to select leadership positions for the new Congress, which will take place in January. McConnell won 37 votes to Scott’s 10, with one senator voting “present,” Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana said.

According to his office, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and John Barrasso of Wyoming nominated McConnell for leadership after a motion to delay the leadership election failed. Sixteen senators voted to delay the election and 32 to move it forward.

Scott, who campaigns for the GOP Senate as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he said on Tuesday he would challenge McConnell for the role of minority leader because Republicans “need to start saying what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”

“Republican voters expect and deserve to know our plan to promote and advance conservative values,” Scott wrote in a letter to colleagues. “We need to heed their calls to action and start ruling in Washington as we campaign at home. There is a Republican Party that is alive and well in communities all over America. Time for her to be in Washington too. “

McConnell has been the leader of the Republicans since 2006, leading the party through majorities and minorities. With his re-election for another term in leadership, McConnell has a chance to overtake Senator Michael Mansfield, leader of the Democrats from 1961-1977, as the longest-serving party leader.

McConnell rejected Scott’s challenge after a lengthy meeting of GOP senators on Tuesday, saying “the result is pretty clear.”

As head of the NRSC, Scott oversaw the Republican Party’s failed bid to win a Senate majority in last week’s midterm elections and frequently clashed with McConnell over the party’s message and campaign strategy. He is also an ally of former President Donald Trump, who encouraged Senate Republicans to oust McConnell after the election.

In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, two Republican senators called for an audit of the NRSC and how it spends its resources, According to to the Policy. But Scott suggested in a statement that an audit was unnecessary and urged groups linked to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) and One Nation to be transparent about their spending.

“The NRSC has conducted an annual independent audit every year since at least 2014. When I took office, I immediately learned that hundreds of thousands of dollars of unauthorized and inappropriate bonuses were paid to departing employees after most of them were lost in 2020.” Scott said. “When this is your starting point, you work really hard to make sure the processes are transparent and we are more than happy to sit down with each member of the club to walk them through our expenses. We hope the SLF and One Nation will do the same. “

Tensions between the former president and McConnell reached a peak after the att*ck on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, which Trump was “morally responsible” for provoking according to McConnell. Since then, Trump has frequently hurled insults at the Republican leader, calling him a “third rate” and an “old crow.”

Some senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, tried unsuccessfully to delay Wednesday’s leadership election until the results of Georgia’s second round of Senate elections, which took place on December 6.

The clash between McConnell and Scott began shortly after the Florida Republican took over as head of the Senate Republican campaign arm and intensified after Scott released an 11-point The “Save America” ​​plan.which quickly became fodder for President Biden and the Democrats in the run-up to the midterm elections.

McConnell quickly rejected Scott’s plan, namely proposals requiring low-income Americans to pay a fraction of federal income tax – effectively raising taxes for about 40% of Americans – and calling for federal legislation to expire after five years. The proposal was a gift to Democrats who had slapped Republicans for potentially putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.

“We’re not going to have a bill on our agenda that raises taxes for half the American people and ends Social Security and Medicare in five years,” McConnell said in March. “It will not be part of the majority agenda of the Republican Senate.”

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