But the election could be different this time. In addition to the trio that circulates the letter, the senses. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also want to delay the election. Hawley says he will vote against McConnell as leader, and Sen.-elect Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) said the Senate GOP needs new leadership.
GOP leaders are sticking to their schedule, however. Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) wrote to all GOP senators Friday afternoon to tell them he supports a “robust” discussion of the GOP agenda. Nonetheless, he said the party would hold its leadership election on Wednesday as scheduled and said the Senate GOP should have a discussion Tuesday at its first post-election party luncheon “so that every senator has a chance to be heard”.
“After the candidate presentations, and there are every opportunity to answer questions from each member, we will complete the leadership elections,” Barrasso wrote.
Additionally, at least one Republican senator has encouraged Johnson to run for leadership, potentially to head the Republican Policy Committee, according to people familiar with the matter. Johnson didn’t rule it out.
“Senator [Marsha] Blackburn supports Senator Johnson as the Republican Policy Chairman of the Senate,” a spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican said.
Current GOP Leader No. 5, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), previously announced an offer for the position, which is held by incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Blunt beat out Johnson for a managerial position in 2011; Lee also previously sought the position at the top of the policy committee, which is the No. 4 position.
After talking about their chances of controlling the upper house as they approach midterms, Republicans are in serious danger of spending another two years in the minority – depending on the results of the Nevada Senate race and the second round of the Georgia in early December. It’s a moment reminiscent of the minor rebellion against former Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who faced six tie votes in his leadership race after Democrats lost the Senate in 2014.
McConnell had no immediate comment on the letter. Allies predicted he would face limited dissent that is well below votes to threaten his job as GOP leader.
Scott spent most of the year at odds with McConnell as the Floridian chaired the Republican National Senate Committee. The GOP leader made critical public comments about the quality of the party’s nominees, later prompting Scott to admit the two had a “strategic disagreement.” The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund ultimately spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on Senate races. Scott also flirted with McConnell, a personal challenge for the GOP top spot.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Lee have often been at odds with McConnell’s handling of the Senate GOP. Both won re-election this week, with Johnson receiving support from the Senate Leadership Fund of about $25 million.
All of this tension is manifesting ahead of the leadership elections scheduled for Wednesday. Scott, Johnson and Lee are seeking to postpone the case until all Senate races are called, which will take nearly a month due to the Georgia runoff.
“Holding leadership elections without hearing from the candidates about how they will carry out their leadership duties and before knowing whether we will have a majority or even who all of our members are violates the most fundamental principles of a democratic process,” their letter reads. . “This is certainly not the way leadership elections should be conducted in the world’s greatest legislative body.”
Separately, Rubio tweeted on Friday that leadership elections should be delayed while the party ensures “those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities and values of working Americans.” And Cruz said “it makes no sense” for the Senate to hold a leadership election before the contest is settled between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican Herschel Walker.
An adviser to Rubio said the Florida senator wants the party to set out its vision for the next two years while considering how he might end up in the Senate minority for another term. Rubio won his re-election race hands down.
“I don’t foresee there being a change in leadership, based on my own mental vote counting on this issue, but I think there is going to be a sea change in terms of the power he has in as a leader,” said David McIntosh, a former congressman who now leads the conservative Club for Growth.
Unlike Hawley, the other GOP senators are not yet saying they will oppose McConnell. The letter said they wanted “a chance to hear from leadership candidates as to what kind of collaborative conference governance model we should adopt.”
Unless someone officially launches a leadership bid, the Republican slate is expected to include McConnell as leader, Sen. John Thune (RS.D.) as whip, Barrasso as conference speaker, Ernst as chairman of the political committee and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.) as vice chairman of the conference. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) is expected to become chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.
Natalie Allison contributed to this report
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