Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott on his relationship with Mitch McConnell after a failed challenge to lead Senate Republicans: 'Well, he just kicked me off a committee. So that was pretty petty.'

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Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott on his relationship with Mitch McConnell after a failed challenge to lead Senate Republicans: 'Well, he just kicked me off a committee. So that was pretty petty.'
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File
  • Sen. Rick Scott said it was "petty" of Sen. Mitch McConnell to take him off the Commerce Committee.
  • "I was the governor of the third-biggest state in the country. And I got kicked off Commerce?" Scott said on Fox News.
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When Florida Sen. Rick Scott challenged Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to lead the Senate Republican Conference after the party failed to win back control of the upper chamber last November, the former Sunshine State governor and businessman pitched himself as a change agent who'd take the caucus in a new direction.

However, McConnell had long cultivated a strong sense of loyalty among his caucus and they backed him overwhelmingly during last year's leadership fight, winning the support of 37 GOP senators, compared to 10 for Scott.

Since then, Scott and McConnell have seemingly coexisted despite the leadership challenge.

But during a Fox News interview earlier this week, Scott said McConnell made a "petty" move by pulling him off the Senate Commerce Committee, a decision that the Kentuckian made in his position as leader of the Republican caucus.

When Scott was asked by anchor Bill Hemmer about his relationship with McConnell, the senator spoke of his ability to seek relationships with members from both parties and reaffirmed his commitment to Florida.

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"I'm going to work hard to represent my state and I tell everybody, 'I'm going to represent the state of Florida. That's what I got elected to do.' You can vote any way you want, I'm going to vote for the citizens of Florida," he said.

When Hemmer asked Scott if he was "cool" with McConnell and vice versa, the Florida lawmaker was decidedly blunt.

"Well, he just kicked me off a committee. So that was pretty petty," Scott said.

Hemmer responded: "The Commerce Committee? But you're on other committees, right?"

Scott replied: "I'm on Armed Services. I'm on Homeland Security. But think about it, I've been on the committee for four years. I've probably ran the biggest business of anybody that's ever served in the Senate. I was the governor of the third-biggest state in the country. And I got kicked off of Commerce?"

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When Hemmer again asked about the relationship, Scott — the former chief executive officer of the Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation — smiled and said he would focus on lawmaking.

"I'm going to keep doing my job," he said during the interview.

McConnell on Fox News earlier this week denied that his decision to take Scott off the panel was the result of any lingering animus from the leadership challenge.

"He had a temporary assignment on the committee, the way we do things, for two years," McConnell said of Scott. "He could have traded in one of his permanent committees for Commerce and stayed on it."

"There were others who wanted it. And I gave it to two other senators, no particular reprisal in mind, no animus toward Rick Scott at all," he added.

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McConnell this week also distanced the GOP from Scott's proposal to "sunset" federal programs like Medicare and Social Security every five years.

"That was the Scott plan. That's not a Republican plan. That was the Rick Scott plan. The Republican plan, as I pointed out last fall, if we were to come the majority, there were no plans to raise taxes on half the American people or to sunset Medicare or Social Security," the GOP leader said.

"I mean, it's just a bad idea. I think it will be a challenge for him to deal with this in his own reelection in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any state in America," McConnell added.

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