Incumbent Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Missouri Senate hopeful Eric Schmitt each said Monday that if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate, they won’t support Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for another term as leader.
At a rally for Schmitt in Springfield, Missouri, Hawley told a gaggle of reporters that he prefers a fresh face for leader, citing disagreements with McConnell on funding Ukraine’s defense against Russia and spending legislation.
“I don’t imagine I will, no,” Hawley reportedly said when asked if he would support McConnell.
“I’m not sure if any other senator will run or not. Nobody’s indicated they would. But my view is that we need new leadership in that position,” he added.
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Asked by St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum who should be the next GOP leader, Hawley simply replied, “not Mitch McConnell.”
Those comments came at a rally for Schmitt, the state attorney general who himself has voiced opposition to McConnell’s leadership. In the final weeks of the Republican Senate primary in July, Schmitt told reporters he wants either Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas or Mike Lee of Utah to lead the Republican conference. “Mitch McConnell hasn’t endorsed me and I don’t endorse him for leadership,” Schmitt said at the time.
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Asked Monday how he would vote in the next leadership election, Scmitt told reporters, “I said what I said, and I stand by those comments.”
McConnell, 80, has been the Republican leader in the Senate for nearly 15 years, both in and out of the majority. He announced his intention to run for leadership again in January, though there are growing calls for change among his GOP colleagues. In addition to Hawley, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., has refused to commit to vote for McConnell and did not rule out running for leadership himself in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“I’m not focused on anything except getting a majority Tuesday night,” Scott said, which host Chuck Todd observed was a “non-answer.”
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The opposition to McConnell intensified after former President Donald Trump began openly feuding with the GOP leader, who refused to support Trump’s unproven claims about the 2020 election. Trump has repeatedly called for McConnell to be replaced, going so far as to vow it will happen if he runs for and wins the White House in 2024.
“This guy does not deserve to continue to be leader and hopefully somebody’s going to challenge him,” Trump said in a radio interview last week. “But I’ll tell you, if I run, and if I win, he will not be leader.”
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Several Trump-endorsed Senate candidates have followed the former president’s lead, stating they will not support McConnell for leader. Those include Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters, who backed a challenge to McConnell on Monday, Alaska candidate Kelly Tshibaka, and New Hampshire GOP nominee Don Bolduc.