In a move that has sparked talk of intraparty retaliation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reportedly booted Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) from the far-reaching and highly influential Commerce Committee, while also pulling Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) from the same panel, as The Hill reports.
According to Fox News, the action was confirmed by multiple sources in the upper chamber, and the lawmakers' removal marks a major development as the Senate continues the process of reorganizing itself in the wake of the midterm elections.
The decision, however, is not without controversy, and it has been the source of acrimony from Scott, who directly blames McConnell alone for his ejection from the committee.
Speaking exclusively with Fox News Digital, Scott fumed, “I represent the third-biggest state in the country. What they told me today at [a Republican Conference] lunch is that the way the rules work, McConnell gets to pick.”
“So,” Scott continued, “guess who [were] kicked off? Mike Lee and me.”
Scott noted that McConnell likely made the arguably provocative choice due to the recent – unsuccessful – challenge the Florida Republican made to the party leader's continued hold on power, despite the latter's insistence that he never took that November attempt to unseat him as a personal affront.
“I'm not in any way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition,” McConnell said at the time.
Reportedly informed of his ouster from the committee via text message, Scott was described as “furious” by a source familiar with the matter, according to The Hill.
While Scott's angry reaction was apparently palpable to observers, one of his Republican colleagues opined that he should have known the risk he was taking by openly challenging McConnell's longtime grip on power.
“What did he expect?” the unnamed senator rhetorically asked.
As the Salt Lake Tribune reported, Lee's dismissal from the powerful panel also appears to stem from the lawmaker having run afoul of McConnell in recent months.
Lee, for his part, had been one of Scott's strongest supporters in his bid to replace McConnell atop the Senate GOP last fall, even delivering a nominating speech on his behalf.
The Utah Republican made reference to his removal from the committee in a Twitter post that said simply, “Mitch happens,” as the Tribune noted, later declaring, that the minority leader “has unreviewable discretion to make certain committee assignments. This was one of those.”
Though Scott's remaining committee assignments include the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panels, and Lee still sits on the Joint Economic, Committed, the Special Committee on Aging, as well as the Judiciary and Energy and Natural Resources committees, both senators are undoubtedly smarting from the loss of the undeniable influence the Commerce Committee's sweeping jurisdiction affords.