Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday denied that any “reprisal” or “animus” played a role in his decision to remove Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) from the Commerce Committee.
“He had a temporary assignment on the committee, the way we do things, for two years,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox News. “He could have traded in one of his permanent committees for Commerce and stayed on it.”
“There were others who wanted it,” he added. “And I gave it to two other senators, no particular reprisal in mind, no animus toward Rick Scott at all.”
The GOP leader could unilaterally decide whether Scott and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was also removed from the panel, could stay on the Commerce Committee because both also belonged to two other “A-list” panels.
Scott has accused McConnell of retaliating against him and Lee for challenging his role as the top Senate Republican last year.
“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,” Scott told CNN last week.
He argued that his background makes him particularly suited to serving on the panel, adding, “I don’t think it made any sense.”
However, McConnell said on Tuesday that Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who were allowed to stay on the panel despite also being on two other A-list committees, could make a similar argument.
“There were others who wanted a temporary assignment on Commerce, in addition to [Scott],” he said. “I ended up giving it to Sen. Capito and Sen. Lummis, both of whom I think would argue that they too could be good members of the Commerce Committee.”