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McConnell’s renegades: Graham and Scott’s “freelancing” threatens GOP unity

Two of the highest-profile Republicans in the Senate are publicly defying Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on high-stakes issues crucial to the GOP’s likelihood of retaking almost all next year.

The picture as a whole: In interviews with Axios, GOP senators and party strategists declined at fault McConnell for the antics of Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). They start to see the “freelancing” as you source near to the leader described it as an indicator of the Senate being an institution wearing down under modern incentive structures.

What’s happening: Scott, the influential chair of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, irked McConnell this spring by independently releasing a 12-point plan for the way the GOP would govern in almost all undercutting the leader’s midterm strategy of keeping the concentrate on Democratic failures.

  • Scott’s “Rescue America” proposal contained several controversial provisions on Social Security and taxes that Democrats instantly seized on for attack ads including President Biden, who continued to troll Scott on the plan as recently as Tuesday.
  • In the last month, Scott and McConnell also have feuded on the politics, policy and fundraising technique for reclaiming the Senate.
  • McConnell recently acknowledged that “candidate quality” may cost Republicans almost all a subtle dig at Scott, who’s in charge of recruiting as chair of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Graham, meanwhile, took GOP leadership by surprise Tuesday by releasing a bill that could ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks drawing new focus on a debate which has energized Democrats and closed the polling gap in key races.

  • The headline-grabbing release came exactly the same day inflation data showed consumer prices remained stubbornly saturated in August, evoking the currency markets to plummet.
  • Graham admitted to Axios he didn’t get permission from McConnell release a the proposal. McConnell, like many GOP senators, has said the abortion question ought to be left to the states.

Between your lines: New knowing of the significance of personal branding, the 24/7 cable news cycle, and internet fundraising has incentivized rogue operators a lot of whom have ambitions beyond the Senate.

  • The insubordination is really a product of a fresh era in politics and underscores just how much harder it really is to make sure party unity in the current Congress.
  • “Rick Scotts plan and Grahams announcement yesterday have sent candidates running for cover and distancing themselves from these proposals,” a Senate GOP leadership aide told Axios. “The opposite of what we wish at this time.”

What they’re saying: “That is an institutional problem. A senator gets elected within their own states plus they are not beholden to anybody,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Axios.

  • “The Senate’s comprised of 99 individuals who desire to be president and me,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said. “People search for moments and opportunities to differentiate themselves. … Republicans, we don’t do the groupthink thing.”
  • We’ve 50 Republican senators … they do that for his or her own motives,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who’s served in the Senate since 1981, told Axios. Grassley reflected on what, previously, “the personality of the complete Senate was to be less partisan, more respectful of every other.”

Retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who has served since 1987, called former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kansas) well-known for holding his conference in line a “great leader.”

  • But “you can’t blame” McConnell, Shelby cautioned. “We’ve always had individuals and individual outcomes.”
  • “I simply think in the current multimedia/24-hour cycle world, it’s just different,” Cramer added. “It’s hard to learn whether a man like Bob Dole might have been in a position to keep everyone in line today.”

What things to watch: If Trump-backed “MAGA” nominees are successful in November, McConnell could have a lot more free agents in his conference that are more likely to buck his leadership.

  • “You have many people that are running this season that are very independent-minded,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told Axios. “If we’ve more members, and hopefully we do, we’ll have significantly more individuals who do their very own thing.”

Another side: “Senator Scott fights each day to accomplish what he thinks is right and is in the very best interest of Florida families. He answers in their mind, his family and God no-one else. We couldnt care less about anonymous sources,” Scott spokesperson McKinley Lewis said in a statement to Axios.

  • Graham’s office didn’t react to a obtain comment.

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