Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell booted two Republican lawmakers from a powerful Senate committee on Wednesday after an unsuccessful attempt last year to oust him from his longtime leadership position.
Senate Republicans Rick Scott of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah are no longer members of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees issues related to interstate commerce, science and technology policy, and transportation.
According to Scott, it’s personal. “This is what happens when you challenge leadership,” Scott said in a statement to the New York Post on Wednesday.
“It was McConnell’s decision to remove someone who has actually run businesses and ran the third-largest state from a committee I’ve served on for four years,” Scott said. “You’ll have to ask him why.”
Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. for a decade beginning in 1987. In 1999 the hospital chain agreed to pay what has widely been characterized as the largest-ever fine — $1.7 billion — over Medicare fraud. Scott resigned from the company under pressure in 1997, according to local media reports, departing with a nine-figure severance package.
During a 2000 deposition on the matter, Politifact reported, Scott exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 75 times.
The 70-year-old junior senator from Florida — elected governor of Florida in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 before successfully running for U.S. Senate in 2018 — mounted a failed bid for the top GOP spot in the Senate shortly after the 2022 midterm elections, in which Republicans failed to flip the Senate.
Scott led the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the election cycle.
Key Words (February 2022): Rick Scott’s 11-step ‘My Plan to Rescue America’ plan: Tax everyone, finish the border wall and name it after Trump
Scott’s effort to oust McConnell, who has been the GOP leader in the Senate since 2007, was strongly backed by Lee, who gave one of the nominating speeches for Scott’s takeover bid.
From the archives (October 2022): Sen. Mike Lee tries to distance himself from Trump in Utah debate vs. independent Evan McMullin
Also (April 2022): Democrats in Utah want to beat Mike Lee so badly they’re backing a (former) Republican for U.S. Senate
McConnell, 80, ably fended off the challenge with the support of 37 senators, while Scott got 10 votes, and one senator voted “present.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell told reporters after emerging from the closed-door vote and giving a thumbs-up signal.
The GOP leader insisted last year that there were no hard feelings about the challenge. “I’m not in any way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition,” he said after his re-election. “I’m pretty proud of 37 to 10.”
Scott and McConnell traded what fellow Senate Republicans called “candid” and “lively” barbs during a lengthy private GOP senators’ lunch in November that lasted several hours. They sparred over the midterms and the quality of the GOP candidates who ran and their differences over fundraising, according to reports.
Key Words (November 2018): Florida’s Rick Scott accuses ‘unethical liberals’ of trying to ‘steal this election’
According to the Hill, McConnell will appoint first-term Sens. Ted Budd of North Carolina, Eric Schmitt of Missouri and J.D. Vance of Ohio to the Commerce Committee in place of Scott, Lee and Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who left the panel to take a seat on the Senate Finance Committee.
The offices of Lee and McConnell reportedly did not respond to New York Post requests for comment.
A version of this report appeared at NYPost.com.
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