McConnell easily swatted back the challenge from Scott in the first-ever attempt to oust him after 15 years as GOP leader.
The vote came after a majority of the caucus voted against an effort to delay the election. Some senators had said the looming Georgia Senate runoff, which could end with former NFL star Herschel Walker, a Republican, winning a Senate seat was one reason to push back the votes.
Scott, 69, is the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a former governor of Florida.
Scott had said he was challenging McConnell to better respond to voters’ desire for a concrete plan if Republicans return to a majority in the upper chamber, asserting that McConnell has failed to provide such a plan and “elicits attacks” on those who do.
Scott and McConnell clashed over a plan Scott unveiled in March, which called for a modest tax increase for many of the lowest-paid Americans, while opening the door for cutting Social Security and Medicare. McConnell swiftly repudiated the plan even as he declined to offer an agenda of his own.
Scott later publicly castigated Senate Republicans like McConnell who spoke ill about Republican candidates ahead of the midterms.
McConnell, 80, told reporters in Washington Tuesday that he would win the election. “I have the votes. I will be elected,” he said.
“I don’t own this job. Anybody in the conference is certainly entitled to challenge me. And I welcome the contest,” he also said.
During Wednesday’s vote, some 20 senators made their individual cases for the two men. Some members directly challenged Scott in McConnell’s defense, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who questioned the Florida senator’s management of the campaign arm, according to a person familiar with the meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.
Scott and McConnell have been among those blamed for Republicans’ poor performance in the midterms, which saw the GOP lose a Pennsylvania seat and fail to flip the Senate.
In the House GOP elections, held earlier this week, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was chosen as the GOP’s speaker candidate, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was voted majority leader, and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, won the race for majority whip.
Joseph Lord and the Associated Press contributed to this report.