Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) ramped up his ongoing feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday, using a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to tear into an “old Republican establishment” that Scott said had capitulated to Democrats for years.
Speaking at the prominent conservative gathering outside of Washington, D.C., Scott cast his decision to challenge McConnell for Senate Republican leader as a righteous effort to oust an entrenched politician in the name of defending conservative values.
While he railed against Democrats, he claimed that “some politicians who say they’re on our side are also destroying our country.”
“It’s not just the Democrats in Washington who are destroying our country,” Scott said. “You have heard the famous quote: ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’.”
“Unfortunately, some of the leaders of our old Republican establishment have been in Washington way too long and forgotten why they came here,” he added. “They’ve gotten used to caving-in to the Democrats. They do it over and over and over. Instead of the Democrats compromising their liberal principles, they roll over, and compromise our conservative principles.”
Scott, the former chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), ultimately failed in his bid to oust McConnell from Senate leadership. But speaking before a friendly audience on Thursday, he said that he felt no remorse for his decision and signaled that there would be more challenges to come.
“When I took on Sen. McConnell, I knew it would be hard, and I assumed I would have a hard time winning,” he said. “But we have to start somewhere. Everyone in Washington said I was nuts, and I might be. But we can’t put up with this BS any more.”
“My belief is that my challenge to Sen. McConnell was not the end of something, it was the beginning of something,” he said. At one point he loosely quoted mixed martial artist Conor McGregor, saying: “I’d like to apologize to absolutely nobody.”
Scott’s remarks were the latest in his months-long back-and-forth with McConnell, the powerful Senate Republican leader whose career in Washington spans nearly four decades.
He ran afoul of McConnell last year after he rolled out a controversial 12-point policy agenda that critics argued would raise taxes across the board and usher in the end of government programs like Social Security and Medicare. Many Republicans argued that Scott’s decision muddled the GOP’s election-year messaging and put them on defense in an otherwise favorable political environment.
McConnell and Scott also found themselves at odds over the GOP’s roster of Senate hopefuls in 2022, with the former arguing that poor candidate quality had hobbled the party’s chances of recapturing control of the upper chamber. Ultimately, Democrats held onto their Senate majority and even gained a seat.
Despite facing intense criticism from many Republicans following the GOP’s lackluster midterm election performance, Scott mounted a bid for Senate minority leader late last year, seeking to oust McConnell from a job he has held for more than 15 years.
Last month, McConnell removed Scott from the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, a move that was widely seen as an act of retribution against the Florida senator. McConnell also pulled Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who backed Scott’s leadership challenge, off the same committee.