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Florida’s Rick Scott enters race to be next Senate GOP leader

Freshman senator up for reelection this year calls for ‘dramatic sea change’

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., conducts a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus on government funding outside the Capitol on Sept. 12, 2023.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., conducts a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus on government funding outside the Capitol on Sept. 12, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Florida’s Rick Scott joined the race to be the Senate’s next Republican leader on Wednesday, telling colleagues in a letter that “we need a dramatic sea change to save our country.”

“I am running for leader because I believe our Conference should be governed to better accomplish what each of us came here to do,” Scott wrote. “I hope this year’s leadership elections will give us the opportunity to choose leaders who will help each of us represent the hopes and dreams of our voters.”

He joins South Dakota Sen. John Thune, currently the No. 2 Senate Republican, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a former Senate Republican whip, in the race for leader. 

Senate Republicans usually hold leadership elections in November, after the general election. 

Assuming they maintain that schedule, Scott first has to win his own reelection. He was first elected to the Senate in 2018, when he defeated Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by 0.2 percentage points. Democrats are trying to make this year’s race competitive, but Florida’s politics have shifted to the right in the last six years and it’s considered to be less of a swing state than it used to be. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Solid Republican. 

After chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2022 cycle, Scott challenged Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell for leader, earning 10 votes in the closed-door election. In February, McConnell announced his plans to step down from Senate leadership at the end of this Congress. 

In his letter, Scott said Senate Republicans should act more in line with what Republican voters are looking for. He said Senate Republicans should coordinate more closely with Republicans in the House and lamented that “the Senate far too often passes legislation that is supported by 100% of the Democrats, and only a quarter of our Republican Conference.”

“It’s no secret that Republican voters believe we don’t fight hard enough for the issues they care about,” Scott wrote. “Republican voters believe our country is going down the wrong path and expect us to fight back harder against the destruction Biden and the Democrats are bringing to this country.”

Democrats currently have a 51-49 operating majority, which includes three independent senators. But one Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III, has said he will not seek reelection, and his seat is likely to flip to the GOP in November. If Democrats lose another seat, or if Republicans win the White House, the Senate would be under Republican control next year.

Scott said the next leader should be limited to a six-year term. He also called for following a “realistic schedule” for the appropriations process and for bills to go through committee and be subject to a “robust amendment process.”

Scott highlighted his relationship with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, noting that they’ve known each other since before either ran for political office. In December, Trump endorsed Scott’s reelection this year, and praised him for being “the only person who has been willing to take on the very destructive super RINO, Mitch McConnell.” 

Scott predicted that Trump would return to the White House next year and that Republicans would control both the House and Senate come January. 

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