Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who has challenged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership and strategy on multiple fronts, told CNN in an interview that he doesn’t think McConnell kicking him off the powerful Commerce Committee “made any sense.”
But Scott said he’s undeterred by the setback, which some Senate conservatives think is payback after the Florida senator challenged McConnell for the Senate Republican leader’s job in a bruising race last year.
“I’m going to keep doing my job,” he told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. “I put out a plan. He completely opposed me putting out a plan.”
Scott angered some Republicans when he unveiled a 12-point plan as a campaign year agenda. He then challenged McConnell for the leader’s job after the midterm election because he and other Senate conservatives felt McConnell didn’t do enough to lay out the Senate Republican governing agenda before Election Day.
“I opposed him because I believe we have to have ideas — fight over ideas — and so he took Mike Lee and I off the committee,” he said.
McConnell also removed Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who nominated Scott to replace McConnell as leader, from the Commerce Committee.
Scott cited his résumé as former chief executive of Columbia/HCA, one of the nation’s largest health care companies, and his two terms as governor of Florida, the nation’s third-biggest state economy, as why he should serve on the panel.
He said he can still work on issues under its jurisdiction through Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who serves as the panel’s ranking Republican.
“I’ll still do my job. Ted Cruz is the ranking member, I’ve got a relationship with him. But I don’t know why, I don’t think it made any sense,” he said.
“I’m responsible for the third-biggest state in the country, I probably ran the biggest company in my prior career of anybody who’s in the Senate right now or before. I bring a lot to the table but that’s a decision he made,” he said of McConnell’s decision to pull him off Commerce to make room for freshmen Sens. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio).
One Republican senator told The Hill that Scott irked McConnell by launching a nationwide television ad this month that highlighted his attempt to oust McConnell as leader and urged Republicans to stop “doing the same old thing.”
Scott in the seven-figure ad buy said he knew that challenging McConnell “was going to be hard” but argued “we gotta start somewhere” because Republicans have just become “a speed bump” in Democrats’ “road to woke socialism.”
A Republican aide familiar with the allocation of committee assignments pointed out that Scott already sits on two of his top-choice committees, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
McConnell wanted to make room on Commerce for the new freshmen Republican senators and had to contend with Republicans’ loss of a seat on the panel because their conference shrunk to 49 seats after the November election.
Yet, McConnell left Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) on Commerce, even though she had less seniority than Scott, and she already sits on two other “A-list” committees, the Banking and Environment and Public Works panels.
Asked by CNN’s Collins whether he should have expected some kind of punishment “because you did go up against him in that bruising battle for the leadership position,” Scott said “our job is to represent the people of the country.”
“This is not about winners and losers, it’s not about partisan stuff, this is about who are the best people to solve the problems of this country,” he said. “I’m going to keep fighting. … I don’t know why he did it, but that’s life.”