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Senator Rick Scott says he will "absolutely" vote for McConnell to be leader

Florida Senator Rick Scott talks GOP views
Senator Rick Scott talks Republican views on Ukraine, midterms and January 6 09:35

GOP Senator Rick Scott, an ally of former President Trump, reiterated that he'll support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lead Senate Republicans again after the midterm elections.

On this question, he differs from Trump, who frequently bashes McConnell — earlier this month, he said McConnell "does not speak for the Republican Party, and does not represent the views of the vast majority of its voters."

Scott, who has to balance a relationship with Trump and McConnell in his role as chair of the the Republican Senate campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in an interview on CBS News that he would "absolutely" vote for McConnell to be leader again in November.

"I can't imagine there will be a leader besides Mitch McConnell," Scott said. 

Scott previously said in November that he would back McConnell as Senate GOP leader.

"I have a very good relationship with the leader," Scott told CBS News. "I think we're going to have a great November and Mitch McConnell will be the leader of the Senate at that time."

As NRSC Chair, Scott has repeatedly insisted that the committee will back its incumbents, which is in the group's bylaws. The highest-profile GOP challenge will come in Alaska, where Trump and his allies are supporting Kelly Tshibaka in a race against incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski.

But Murkowski won't need to win the primary to advance to the general election, since Alaska now has a new election system, just approved by voters in 2020. Now, the four candidates who receive the most votes during the primary will advance to the general election and compete in a ranked-choice voting format to determine the winner.

Murkowski's campaign started 2022 with $4.2 million cash on hand, while Tshibaka's campaign had about $630,000 stashed away. 

"I don't think Lisa Murkowski is going to need our support," Scott said when asked about what resources the NRSC plans to commit to helping Murkowski.

"Our money will be most spent to pick up the seats in Georgia, in Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, there will be some other states that I think we can pick up," he added. "We're going to take our resources and play offense all across the country."

Last week, the Republican Governors Association put $500,000 on a TV ad supporting Brian Kemp to help him fend off his primary challenge by former Senator David Perdue. It's the first time the group has ever put up a TV ad during a primary to back an incumbent who is facing a Republican challenger. 

Scott also told CBS News that he does not support preemptive pardons for people charged with crimes related to the January 6 attack at the Capitol. Trump floated the idea of pardoning those defendants during a rally in Texas last month. 

"I think it's wrong that people broke into the Capitol," Scott said. "Those individuals need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, just like anybody that breaks into property, property [or] state property."

A recent CBS News poll found that 33% of Americans support the idea of pardoning those who forced their way into the Capitol. Sixty-one percent of Republicans said they support pardons. 

Scott did say that those defendants could go through the clemency process as allowed under law. 

"Whoever the president has the opportunity to look at clemency and make a decision if they want to do that or not," Scott told CBS News.

Scott also criticized the way the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack was set up, calling it a committee that's meant to "attack Republicans" because Pelosi didn't seat House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's proposed members

The Republican National Committee censured the two Republicans on that committee, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, earlier in February. Scott told CBS News that he was "not going to second guess what the members of the Republican National Committee want to do" and believes Republicans should not have participated in the House Committee. 

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