Conservative groups push Senate to delay leadership elections as frustration with McConnell grows

Dozens of conservative activists on Monday called on Senate Republicans to delay their leadership elections, as dissent against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell grows both inside and outside the upper chamber.

Fifty-nine people representing high-profile conservative groups signed the letter joining eight Senate Republicans in demanding a delay in their leadership elections, scheduled for Wednesday. There are also some House Republicans dissatisfied with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., calling to delay their Tuesday elections, who the letter’s signers also voiced support for. But it’s a smaller group in proportion to the overall conference.

“The Republican Party needs leaders who will confidently and skillfully present a persuasive coherent version of who we are, what we stand for, and what we will do,” the letter says. “Many current elections are still undecided. There should be no rushed leadership elections.”

Conservative Political Action Conference chairman Matt Schlapp; FreedomWorks president Adam Brandon; Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts; former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Club for Growth president David McIntosh; and former Trump administration Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought are among the most high-profile signers of the letter.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be the longest-serving party leader in history if he is re-elected as the Senate GOP leader on Wednesday.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Former Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Ginni Thomas, and former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis also signed the letter, which is led by Conservative Action Project Chairman J. Kenneth Blackwell.

“We strongly urge both Houses of Congress to postpone the formal Leadership elections until after the December 6 runoff in Georgia and all election results are fully decided,” the activists wrote.

Sens. Rick Scott,.R-Fla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., are the Republicans so far who have called to delay the Senate GOP elections.

“The old party is dead. Time to bury it,” Hawley said in a weekend tweet.

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“I’m still diving into the data from the last election,” Schlapp told Fox News Digital in an interview about the letter. “There’s a lot of people scratching their heads and trying to determine why the results weren’t better.”

Schlapp added: “Members need time to digest, activists need time to digest, and I think anybody who wants to be a leader should welcome the conversation people need to have.”

Schlapp also said that without such a conversation, the result would be “fury” from activists who feel left out.

Senate GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso said Friday Republicans will hold their leadership elections as scheduled.
(Fox News)

Despite the push for a delay, the Senate and House GOP leadership elections are currently set to go on as planned. Senate GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo., wrote to other Republican senators Friday.

“I expect a full and open discussion beginning at Tuesday’s policy lunch on our path forward. On Wednesday, we will meet again for our scheduled conference elections,” Barrasso wrote in a note to GOP senators, which was obtained by Fox News Digital.

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Sen. Rick Scott spoke with Fox News Digital at the National Conservatism conference in Aventura, Florida, on Sept. 11, 2022.
(Joseph A. Wulfsohn/Fox News Digital)

“I welcome the questions and points made in the letter circulated by Senators Rick Scott, Lee and Johnson,” Barrasso said.

Much of the frustration among the right-leaning Republicans backing a leadership election delay is with McConnell, R-Ky. But some Republicans are also frustrated with Scott, who’s repeatedly refused to rule out challenging McConnell for minority leader and was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee for the midterms.

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“Members are frustrated, and they’re looking for an outlet to have a conversation. There will be a robust discussion at lunch on Tuesday,” a Senate GOP aide told Fox News Digital. “There will also be a lot of questions about candidate quality, campaign priorities and mistakes. A lot of these will be directed at Scott, especially if the reports are true that he was preparing to challenge McConnell before Election Day had even concluded.”

Despite the apparent swipes against his leadership in recent days, McConnell is likely safe in his role. Senate GOP leader elections require just a majority of the conference, and it does not appear there’s that level of opposition to McConnell.

McCarthy is also expected to win the House GOP speaker nomination with a very significant majority of votes Tuesday. But the formal House speaker election in January requires a majority of the full House. With the House GOP majority expected to be very slim, it’s possible just a handful of members opposing him could block McCarthy from the speakership.