WASHINGTON ― In a sign of intra-party disarray, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday sharply rebuked an economic proposal floated by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a member of his own leadership team who is tasked with leading GOP efforts to recapture the Senate majority next year.
“If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide in consultation with my members, what to put on the floor,” McConnell said Tuesday when asked about Scott’s 11-point plan.
The far-right manifesto calls for radically downgrading the federal government, drastically cutting spending on social services, requiring all federal laws to be reauthorized every five years, and raising taxes on the poor.
The Florida Republican maintained he pitched the plan in a personal capacity, and not as part of his role in GOP leadership as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is tasked with helping elect GOP candidates.
But Democrats have savaged Republican candidates up and down the ballot over the proposal, accusing them of seeking to raise taxes on needy Americans.
McConnell sought to stem that bleeding in his remarks on Tuesday, pledging, “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare after five years.”
Scott didn’t stick around to listen to McConnell bash his proposal; the Florida Republican left early before McConnell took questions. The minority leader appeared unaware of Scott’s unusual exit, telling reporters his colleague would be available to take questions even though Scott had already walked away.
The public lashing was an extraordinary display for a leader known for holding his cards close to the chest and for working to advance party unity above all else. McConnell has refused to release a GOP agenda if his party takes back the Senate in November, something that would reveal more fissures within the GOP.
McConnell and Scott have also differed in their approaches to former President Donald Trump. Unlike McConnell, Scott has embraced the former president, using his image to raise funds and bolster his party’s chances in November.
Trump, for his part, has urged Republicans to oust McConnell as leader in the Senate and replace him with Scott, an idea that hasn’t gotten any steam.